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COVID-19 outbreak: Implications and practical considerations for employers

Health and Benefits|Benefits Administration and Outsourcing Solutions|Casualty|Property
COVID 19 Coronavirus

February 27, 2020

Our recent webcast covered the impact on businesses, the psychological impact of the disease and the applicability of insurance to COVID-19 claims.
COVID-19 webcast replay

Our recent COVID-19 webcast covered the outbreak from multiple perspectives, including the impact it’s having on China, Asia and beyond, steps businesses can take to protect employees, how businesses are adjusting to the changes, the psychological impact of the disease and the applicability of insurance to COVID-19 claims.

Practical measures to protect employees

Dr. Daniel Slaim, regional medical director, International SOS (ISOS), a leading medical and travel security services company, provided background on the genesis and spread of the disease, and its relationship to other known afflictions such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the common cold.

He also provided tips on how his company is protecting its traveling employees. And he recommended measures risk managers, human resources managers and security professionals can take to prepare and protect their organizations, including defining the role of the crisis management team, assigning pandemic managers, and conducting drills and providing continuous training.

Impact across China and beyond

Smilla Yuan, Willis Towers Watson head of Greater China and China, discussed the economic and social toll COVID-19 is taking across the region, focusing on how businesses are adapting to the numerous changes in Chinese businesses since the outbreak. Among her insights:

  • The Chinese economy has been seriously impacted, with 30% of businesses surveyed expecting lower 2020 revenues.
  • COVID-19 is accelerating many workforce changes that were already taking place such as increased telecommuting, automation, use of artificial intelligence, e-learning and digital marketing.
  • China is seeing an increased focus on employee health and wellbeing in light of the crisis.
  • Online businesses are thriving, and new companies are likely to arise from outbreak, which has had a significant impact on Chinese society.

The psychological impact of COVID-19

While the physical manifestations of the disease are obvious, its psychological impact is likely more widespread. Dr. Kenny Kung, medical director of United Medical Practice of Hong Kong, discussed the wide range of psychological afflictions COVID-19 is causing, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypochondria, insomnia, poor appetite, among other afflictions.

Dr. Kung also outlined several steps employers can take to help employees cope with the stresses brought on by the outbreak.

Will insurance cover losses stemming from COVID-19?

Neil Thomas, Willis Towers Watson head of claims for Asia, discussed how different types of insurance may apply to losses stemming from COVID-19. While he emphasized that all claims must be analyzed in the context of specific policies, he noted certain coverages that could apply such as work injuries, sickness resulting from travel, event cancellation, liability to third parties, and directors’ and officers’ liability. He also mentioned that trade credit policies could cover supply chain disruptions.

On the other hand, business interruption losses, which could be the most common, generally would not be covered property policies unless there was physical damage.

Thomas also covered the role of alternative risk transfer and parametric insurance solutions as well as other steps organizations can take to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19, such as controlling costs, reviewing contracts, talking to lenders and exploring government aid.

Next steps

We will continually provide updates and insights as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds.
Listen to a replay of the webcast.


Managing Director, Human Capital and Benefits, International

Smilla Yuan
Head of the Greater China region at Willis Towers Watson

Head of Claims, Asia

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