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Companies, ICT firms go remote as COVID-19 spreads

. Computer Village ready to comply when directive comes
. WHO launches health alert service on WhatsApp

With no proven solution in sight yet, the tendencies that most organisations will operate remotely, by activating the work-from-home policy is gradually becoming inevitable.

Already, global companies have started the work-from-home policy. This process is aimed at protecting their workforce against contracting the coronavirus, which has killed thousands of people across the globe.

Companies including Alphabet, Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple had since told their employees to work-from-home until the end of March or April.

In Nigeria, as at press time, yesterday, there were 35 confirmed cases, out of which 32 are active, two people already discharged and one death recorded.

Already, the Lagos state government has ordered civil servants in the state to stay at home for the next 14-days. A measure targeted at preventing the spread of the virus.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide SanwoOlu Sanwo-Olu said that the ‘Stay-At-Home’ order was part of efforts to further stem the spread of the ravaging COVID-19.

He urged operators in the private sector to emulate the gesture of the state government by directing their staff, who were on non-essential service to stay at home in order to effectively combat and reduce the pandemic in the state.

Last week, part of the measures as MTN adopted was the work-from-home policy.

The telecommunications firm said in a statement that following official confirmation of COVID-19 cases in some of its markets, MTN Group has taken a series of precautionary measures to ensure continuity of services and the safety of its stakeholders including employees, customers, communities and suppliers against the potential outbreak.

MTN Nigeria Ag. Public Relations Manager, Lakinbofa Goodluck, said: “In our own environments we have installed thermal scanners at MTN office facilities, as an early detection method for testing body temperature and enhanced hygiene measures including hand sanitizers in all our offices. The implementation of a work-from-home plan for employees has also been implemented. In addition, we have placed restrictions on all international travel and also reducing, wherever possible, domestic travel, as we continue to monitor the situation.”

It was also, gathered that a Lagos based digital lending firm, Carbon, announced that it was allowing all its employees to work from home to minimise their exposure to coronavirus infection but assured its customers of the company’s availability on social media and emails.

The Chief Executive Officer, Carbon, Chijioke Dozie, said the company was following the advice of health practitioners that the best way to slow the spread of the virus was to increase basic personal hygiene such as washing hands and practicing social distancing.

He said, “As a careful measure to safeguard and support the Carbon team, we’re working towards ensuring that we can work from our homes, if need be.”

Speaking with The Guardian, the President, Phones and Allied Dealers Products Association (PAPDA), Ifeanyi Akubue, said the Computer Village market is ready to comply with any government directive that will stem the virus tide.

Akubue said: “At the market, there is palpable fears! Though the crowd is still there, but people are scared. But in every of the shops, we have mandated them to have sanitisers, and to be used as often as possible. I am seeing that in the next couple of days, people will be closing their shops.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has launched a Health Alert on WhatsApp. The new service, which is free to use, has been designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide. This will also serve government decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports.

On how it works, WHO explained: “Start by clicking WHO Health Alert, then simply text the word ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started. The service responds to a series of prompts and will be updated daily with the latest information. You can also visit the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub at whatsapp.com/coronavirus, and click on the WHO link on the homepage to open up a chat with the WHO Health Alert if you have WhatsApp installed.

“The WHO Health Alert will provide official information on topics such as how to protect yourself from infection, travel advice, and debunking Coronavirus myths. The service is initially launching in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages within the coming weeks (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.)”

Announcing the service, Facebook Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said in a post: “We’ve worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a way to get authoritative information about coronavirus sent directly to your WhatsApp. With WHO Health Alerts, you can receive their daily situation report, which has the latest numbers of cases by country around the world, as well as tips on how to protect yourself, and answers to frequently asked questions that you can easily send to friends and family. So many people wanted this service that even before we could announce it, people shared the link around WhatsApp and almost half a million people had already signed up.”

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