Speaking to My Business, the assistant director of the Australian Department of Health said that while there are currently only a few cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia, businesses need to review, identify and assess the risks that the virus could present to their ongoing operation in the event of high levels of absenteeism.
“Businesses should look at the essential resources, services, personnel and cross-sector dependencies that are required and the potential triggers and thresholds for ongoing operations,” Mr Vincent Tulley said.
1 in 6 impacted
Latest insights from Roy Morgan reveal that by mid-February, around one in six Australian businesses had already been affected by the coronavirus, with education, manufacturing and wholesale industries hit the hardest.
This new threat to business comes as a quarter of Australian businesses fight to recover from the extensive bushfires, according to a special Roy Morgan snap SMS survey of 1,170 local businesses.
The survey revealed that a little over a week after the government stopped all direct commercial flights to China, the virus was already striking several industries.
“The new threat of [the] coronavirus (COVID-19) that has emerged in recent weeks is already hitting the business community in much of Australia — and in several states including Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, [it] has already had a bigger impact than the bushfires,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.
Around two-fifths of manufacturers are already reporting being affected, and closely followed by a third of education and training businesses and those in the wholesale industry.
Other industries to already be feeling the effects of the coronavirus include accommodation and food services which includes travel and tourism businesses, community services, administrative and support services, and property and business services.
The findings point to businesses struggling with workers who are being quarantined and kept away from work, the impact on supply lined for the import or exports of goods, the decline in bookings from Chinese tourists and cancellations by customers in Asia.
Impacts to linger for 3–6 months
Speaking to My Business, the chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Victoria said he predicts the impacts of the coronavirus on the local economy will stick around for another three to six months.
“I saw [a] report somewhere COVID-19 will take up to 0.3 [of a percentage point] off our GDP growth. With the spread now to Japan, Korea and Italy, and China still in containment mode, the impact will last for another three, six months,” Kee-Guan Saw said.
Mr Saw said that besides delays in shipments from China due to the extended factory shutdowns and the reduced number of vessels leaving for Australia, thousands of tours have also been cancelled due to China barring outbound group travel.
And according to Roy Morgan, businesses in travel and tourism, that are already suffering on the back of the catastrophic fires, are struggling to come to terms with this new threat.
The figures point to over 40 per cent of these businesses being affected either “a great deal” or “somewhat”.
Businesses in the east coast states of Victoria (39 per cent), NSW (31 per cent) and Queensland (23 per cent) have been the most heavily affected by the bushfires/floods.
“The all-round impact of the coronavirus is having an increasing impact on general confidence, which in turn has a negative effect on retail foot traffic. We’ve already seen restaurants close due to the decline in customers, particularly in places heavily reliant on Chinese-owned businesses such as Chinatown,” Ms Levine said.
Outbreak taken seriously
The Australian Department of Health said that a precautionary approach is being taken in order to minimise the spread of the disease within the community as much as possible.
“In Australia, we are fortunate to have an excellent public health system. This system is well prepared to respond to the current COVID-19 outbreak and we are taking this outbreak very seriously. Significant preparations have been made for major outbreaks and pandemics and this is being applied to the current situation,” Mr Tulley said.
He added that while there is no need to worry, people should be alert, not alarmed, and stay informed through monitoring the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 information at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.