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Boss sends all staff home as scientist urges firms to act on coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 11:10 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:03 12 March 2020

Mark Williams-Cook, Candour. Pic: Archant

Mark Williams-Cook, Candour. Pic: Archant

A Norwich firm has told all of its staff to work from home in the light of the coronavirus.

Mark Williams-Cook, Candour. Pic: submittedMark Williams-Cook, Candour. Pic: submitted

The decision comes as a leading Norwich scientist warns businesses not to 'wait too long' to allow employees to work remotely as the rate of infection continues to increase.

Prof George Lomonossoff, from the John Innes Centre, who is working on a vaccine to beat coronavirus in pigs, said he predicted there would be about 1,200 people infected in the UK in the next four-five days.

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He said coronavirus was 'more or less doubling' its total rate of infected every few days, behaving exactly as he would expect - and that stopping the spread further could only be done by self-isolation.

The boss of marketing agency Candour, in Muspole street, is one step ahead because he has been implementing procedures to allow all his 10 staff to work from home - and this will be happening as of Monday, March 16. All work will be done remotely including meetings and workshops with staff using video conferencing rather than seeing people face to face.

Mark Williams-Cook, managing director, said: 'While this may sound dramatic, this is a very simple transition for us as we already have all of the procedures, software and systems in place for doing this.

Prof George Lomonossoff, a virologist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Pic: John Innes CentreProf George Lomonossoff, a virologist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Pic: John Innes Centre

'Given the current rise in confirmed UK cases of COVID-19, Candour is enacting a phased plan to help ensure staff wellbeing and minimising our contribution to the further spread of the virus.'

He said coronavirus had caused some of their clients to cancel meetings and some projects were being put on hold because of the very nature of the work involving organising conferences and events for lots of people to attend.

'Clients involved in training and events are postponing work with us so of course it is the ripple effect but luckily we have a diverse portfolio and we have an emergency plan which is based on how we could continue in the event of something like this. Video calls are not quite as nice as seeing someone face to face but everyone we have suggested this to has been so far very understanding.'

Other firms like travel companies have seen a downturn in trade because of the fear over coronavirus.

Prof Lomonossoff said: 'We have a tendency to battle through and go to work but this is counter productive, it just spreads infection and although there is no guarantee that by working from home you aren't going to get coronavirus, the fewer contacts you have, the more the spread is slowed down.

'We don't want to get behind the curve of infection, otherwise it all becomes pointless as coronavirus would be everywhere. At the moment coronavirus is spreading as I would expect, I expect around 1200 will be infected in the next four or five days.'

Are you implementing a work from home policy or are you a business that cannot do this? Email caroline.culot@archant.co.uk

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