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Singapore banks start health checks, restrict handshakes as ‘orange’ coronavirus alert enforced

Banks in Singapore, along with other employers, must enforce a range of new requirements to combat the coronavirus after the government stepped up its risk assessment level from yellow (minimal disruption) to orange (moderate) on Friday.

Notably, employers in the Republic now have to make sure employees take their temperatures “at least twice daily” and also regularly monitor themselves for “respiratory symptoms” such as a cough and runny nose, according to the new orange-level guidance from the Ministry of Health (MOH). Staff who have a fever or feel unwell should leave the office immediately to see a doctor.

The orange alert does not restrict small-group face-to-face meetings. However, if you’re a banker meeting a client or a candidate meeting a recruiter, MOH advises against shaking their hands “as a general good practice” that was also in place during the 2003 SARS crisis. You should instead adopt “alternative greetings such as clasping your [own] hands”.

MOH advises firms to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events, although events can still continue if necessary but with “additional precautions”. As we reported earlier this week, however, banks are already cutting back their events. Citi told us that it’s “limiting large group gatherings” and has started to “make arrangements to postpone or cancel” some of its upcoming client events.

If you are still organising an event at your bank, you’ll now need to carry out temperature screening, look out for respiratory symptoms, deny entry to unwell individuals, and tell people not to attend if they have recently travelled to China. There are other new precautions to follow, such as around hygiene, the cumulative effect of which may be enough to make banks postpone their events.

Although the coronavirus is being contained and there is no widespread outbreak in Singapore (where most current virus patients are recovering), the beefed-up guidance comes as MOH identified three new virus cases without any links to previous cases or travel history to China.

Other new MOH rules of specific relevance to banking professionals include a requirement to immediately ask customers who are unwell to leave the building and see a doctor.

Meanwhile, MOH has advised companies to “step up and get ready their business continuity plans, in case there is widespread community transmission”. Banks have already been planning for a red-level risk assessment (one up for the current orange alert) under the government’s DORSCON (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) framework that shows the current disease situation.

Citi says it already has “contingency plans in place for various scenarios as a response to the coronavirus”, while OCBC “will continue to monitor and institute more measures as soon as they become necessary”. A red assessment, if it is issued, could include measures such as work-from-home orders.

Photo by Giang Vu on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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