My friend's company is not taking basic precautions on COVID-19 (i.e. hand sanitizers, asking employees to take time off if they are showing symptoms, etc.) Basic protections are not provided for cleaning staff. S/he tried to connect to the boss and s/he was threatened with disciplinary action for creating panic.

Meanwhile, outside schools are closed. All public meetings are suspended and citizens are following social protocols. S/he doesn't want to report such behavior to the authorities. If any action or inquiries come from authorities, it will point to my friend. S/he is afraid of losing the job. At the same time, s/he is afraid to work there. Work from home is also not allowed.

What shall s/he do in the face of this scenario?

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    Hand sanitizers are not required if people wash their hands regularly with soap so I wouldn't count this as "basic protection"
    – JayZ
    Mar 13, 2020 at 7:31
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    @JayZ I will accept that if they also operate without virus scanners on their emails and have no password complexity requirements as they trust their employees to listen to their IT training. Mar 13, 2020 at 7:36
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    @AnishSheela Do you really need instruction to wash your hand from your company when there already are instructions from WHO and media? I'm not saying the company shouldn't communicate, but maybe adult people need to be responsible too
    – JayZ
    Mar 13, 2020 at 7:52
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    @MatthewGaiser - Strange equivalence. Having access to hand sanitizers is no more effective than having access to soap and water - both depend on people remembering to use them. Or were you proposing some kind of automatic washing of your colleagues? Mar 13, 2020 at 10:25
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    Don't expect people to respect whatever instructions they're given. If somebody is not used to wash their hands, why would you think the employer reminding it would change that?
    – Laurent S.
    Mar 13, 2020 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


You have ample time to prepare, so there is no need for panic (yet)

The country of India has currently recorded 73 cases and 1 death (died this morning, a 73-y/o man) and has a population of 1.339 billion, meaning (1 / 1 339 000 000) * 73 = 0.00000545% of the population has the coronavirus. That's an insanely low number (for the moment). This means your company has ample time to prepare if things would heat up in your country.

Use a practical approach to persuade your managers/boss.

I've convinced my own employer and manager to take action quite early on; every day at lunch since January I gave my co-workers and boss an update on economic implications, how the virus works and the effects it has on our partners and us (our partners are dependent on Chinese exports, so it happened quite early). So when Corona hit my country the Netherlands, and the city where I work and the city where I live, the boss had already taken action. The workplace got sanitized, the boss held back investments so the money can be used to keep operations going and ensure operations wouldn't be shut down due to potential quarantine measures.

You can do something similar. Be practical. Use the economic argument to convince your boss, not a moral argument. If the Indian government or the local governments set up quarantine measures (work from home, shut down schools, prevent people from travelling between cities, etc) it will have unfortunate implications on your company. And there is nothing your boss can do about it. There are already many examples of companies suffering the full brunt of the quarantines that are likely similar to what your company will experience soon. Compile it and try to present that to your manager so they will take precautions (hand sanitizer, working from home, etc) before Corona will hit where you live in force.

tl;dr Having a sick workforce or employees having to deal with sick family members will hurt your company financially. That is a great way to give people incentive to act.

Edit: no, I am not saying it cannot go bad in India. What I'm saying is that OP, his family, his co-workers and his boss have more than enough time to get preparations underway.

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    How much testing capcaity does India have, 73 reported cases doesn't mean that aren't many multiples more who are carrying
    – cdkMoose
    Mar 13, 2020 at 11:55
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    @cdkMoose let's say there are 4.000 cases in India, most of them undetected. This still is barely anything compared to 1.3+ billion people.
    – Lucas
    Mar 13, 2020 at 12:56
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    @Jost - If you are going to indicate 10 million people will catch this strand of the flu, then you need to back that up, with WHO reports that indicate that fact. Furthermore, the death rate, is currently extremely small.
    – Donald
    Mar 13, 2020 at 14:36
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    @Donald unfortunately, the death rate (compared to genera flu) isn't small. It's 2-3% compared to 0.05%. And it can get bad because our immune systems have never seen the virus (or its relatives) before while our bodies are very familiar with the antics of the viruses that cause the flu. The current strategy by many nations is to slow it down so healthcare systems don't get overwhelmed causing higher death rates, and everyone can build immunity instead.
    – Lucas
    Mar 13, 2020 at 15:44
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    @Donald yes, just as much as how apples and oranges are both fruits. Downplaying the issue is arguably worse than panicking. Get your company/employer dug in, and wait for the storm to pass. My employer has decided everyone will work from home starting monday. Today was the last day in the office to get everything set up.
    – Lucas
    Mar 13, 2020 at 16:28

What shall s/he do in the face of this scenario?

This is a very difficult time for all. Some people have not come to terms with the magnitude of this pandemic and so are trying their hardest to deny that it's a problem. They want to go on with their life as normal which is totally understandable.

I'm not sure of the measures that India is currently taking but they haven't yet (???) banned people from going to work. As such if you want stuff like hand sanitiser ... etc you'll have to provide that yourself. In terms of taking time off work when ill again I don't know the law but in the EU it's a Health and Safety law. A company can't fire you for taking time off for being ill. You also currently can't stop people from coming in to work when they are ill (never have been). The type of people who are still working even though they are ill are again in denial so there is little you can do to convince these people.

I would suggest that they implement the precautions as best they can themselves but in terms of making a big deal at the moment they are on the edge of disciplinary action. They will have to weight up getting fired or getting sick that's their own decision.

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