While the number of tests has increased, the government has changed tack on testing. People are now being asked to self-isolate if symptoms present and only call NHS 111 if the symptoms get worse. In these cases, people will mainly be tested at hospital. Although South Korea has approved two Covid-19 detection kits for urgent domestic use, similar to a pregnancy test, they are not approved by the UK. Vizion has researched four medical suppliers and the outcome is that the UK is unlikely to approve testing kits for private use. Qiagen advised us to use a non-touch thermometer to assess fever and look for a new cough and shortness of breath as indicators. By the way, they said they were impressed with our website and nature of service when they called us.
If you have the symptoms of coronavirus, a fever, and new persistent cough and shortness of breath, you should stay at home for 7 days. If you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the day their symptoms started. This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear. If you then get symptoms, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you're home for longer than 14 days.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Based on the self-isolation periods above, SSP applies if you are presenting symptoms and not working. Those able to and set up to work from home will be on full pay. In the first instance, priority for home working will be given to employees at high risk to ensure full pay. Those with no symptoms who choose to stay at home to avoid risk will not receive SSP or full pay. In some circumstances, staff will be able to take paid holiday at short notice.
External Face to Face Meetings and Visitors
There is now a ban on face to face meetings with suppliers and clients in both Hull and Wellingborough, and externally at supplier and client sites. Recruitment has been postponed and only new staff offered positions that are business critical will join. Others will be postponed until a later date. This is due to induction and training resource. Internal meetings will continue at each site, but there will be no joint meetings between Hull and Wellingborough until further notice.
There has been information circulating on social media and the internet that is misleading and wrong. An example is the guidance circulated from the Stanford Hospital Board. It is understandable why people may take these on face value, but we must instead be informed by official channels, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), appropriate Public Health Authority and government medical experts. Specifically with regard to our industry and motor manufacturers being misquoted, in regard to the potential impact of parts, when in fact the majority of closures relate entirely to the closures of assembly plants.
We are experiencing a fall of around 20% at the moment, we expect business volumes to reduce further in coming weeks. Conversely, people who usually take the train are now turning to cars for transport, so we may see some balancing out. However, the trend is likely to be downward, and we are tracking movement daily. The initial downturn in new motor claims will start to create immediate space in the calendar. This may also happen at a time when repairers have staff self-isolating, so again, it may balance out. Customers may also choose not to book their damaged vehicles in due to uncertainty over the process and personal contact. These customers may wait until the virus situation changes before booking in – possibly creating a surge later down the line.
Given that business volumes are likely to decrease, we intend to speak with staff about holiday planning. Where we are able to, we will ask for volunteers to take holiday when we experience low business volume. A rota will be drawn up to ensure we limit overlap and that we have the skills and resources to operate well at these lower volumes. This will allow increased resource at a time when business activity increases, or surges.
Vizion staff are already able to work from home and this facility is already mature within our BCP. We did not want to indiscriminately close the call centres and put everyone on home working, but we have been ready to do so. In preparation for this the entire system has been put under severe stress testing to ensure that operational resilience would be maintained under high demand and if 100% of our staff were no longer centre based. As part of this testing high risk and certain individuals and teams supporting the business have been redeployed to home working to ensure testing is also live data and working day relevant.
Additional laptops have been made available and also pod computers which allow those without hardware already to dial in and work from home. These have all been prepared to be plug and play, only requiring the Wi-Fi connection to be established. The kit includes headsets and easy to use set up instructions and guidance will be provided over the phone if required. Our VOIP accessed via the system will act and react as if being used within our offices, messaging and recording facilities will remain BAU. Security controls have been a primary consideration both in terms of virtual and physical aspects and all systems and access points have advanced safeguards and fail safes backup by physical oversight by the analytics and management teams.
Due to the escalation by the Prime Minister of social distancing rules, we have now initiated a complete work from home protocol. All Vizion and AutoFlow staff will be home working by close of business on the 25th of March.
School closures impact on the need for some staff to take time off to care for dependants in self isolation. We know how many employees have children at school that may be affected should a school infection be confirmed. Again, home working will be available. This will also impact on repairers and may turn out to be in balance with volume reduction, allowing businesses to plan, using various flexible working and short notice holiday options to cope.
Office Infection Protocol
Should we get an infection in our Hull or Wellingborough offices, all critical functions will be handled in the non-infected site while the infected site closes and is cleaned. Should there be a situation where both offices are infected, staff are able to access our systems remotely from home. We have full connection via VOIP enabled home computers and laptops, maintaining our ability to record all calls, and an incoming phone message to the business will ask callers to email where possible, or leave a message rather than wait on the phone. There is full time oversight and monitoring of home working by managers and clients will be advised of changes in advance.
Part and Paint Supply
Our enquiries with vehicle manufacturers find that vehicle, parts and paint supply is not a concern at the moment. Some factories in affected areas have closed and some have reopened. Manufacturers normally have more than one source of parts supply for continuity reasons, but we're keeping a watching brief. Similarly with paint. Most paint is manufactured in the EU and we have had statements to the effect that availability is not affected. There are still some stockpiles from the Brexit no deal preparation. We expect insurers will take informed decisions on reparability based on availability of parts and we are asking repairers to check parts are available prior to start of repairs. This should address any unwanted extended use of courtesy cars.
There are no current issues with consumables although there is an indirect link in regard to PPE, where manufacturers are rightly prioritising supplies into the NHS:
3M and other disposable masks are in short supply as, quite rightly, 3M and other manufacturers are diverting sales away from non-essential industries and prioritising the NHS at this time. There are ample stocks of cartridge masks at the moment which are a suitable, in some ways better alternative to the disposable masks and cartridges last a lot longer than the disposable masks. We are advising repairers to talk to their staff about the usage of disposable masks and where possible, extend the life of masks. Working habits are such that staff change these regularly when they could keep the mask in use for a lot longer.
Gloves are not currently a problem as these are not generally medical grade and there are vast stocks in place, we do not see a problem providing people do not panic buy. There are also more durable alternatives to normal latex gloves which can be re-used and worn for a lot longer.
Currently, there are good stock levels of overalls, but this could be affected over time by individual suppliers. However, there are numerous suppliers in this space. Again, using overalls for longer to get maximum wear out of disposable ones, or making a switch to washable alternatives is very easy and perfectly suitable.
In general, there is no current issue but it is essential that we promote smart working and encourage distribution to stop any panic buying, there is no issue with PPE that a small, insignificant, amount of thinking and change won't prevent. We do not want the toilet roll fiasco to propagate in to these items.
Cleaning of Courtesy Cars
It is a debatable point about the additional cleaning of courtesy cars in cases of contagion. The cleaning of touchable surfaces, such as the steering wheel, gear stick, handles, switches and keys should be part of the normal cleaning process, including an alcohol based wipe - but is this medically effective. However, if the vehicle has been in contact with someone confirmed as having the virus, specialist cleaners are available. Contacts for specialist cleaning are www.rentokil-hygiene.co.uk 0808 301 6094, and www.reactsc.co.uk 01283 550503.
Collection and Delivery Process
Some drivers have expressed concern about collecting and delivering vehicles and how to protect themselves when doing so. Vizion has suggested fixing normal protective covers for seats, steering wheel and gear stick and to wash hands each time and carry alcohol based gel. When collecting a vehicle from or delivering a vehicle to a customer, the driver should practice social distancing. By calling to prepare the customer in advance and collecting or delivering the keys by placing in an agreed place, the customer and driver can pass the vehicle and keys to each other without physical contact. Any customers that are sick and self-isolating, where infection is known or unknown, are asked to rebook when the 7 or 14 day period has expired.
Note: Vehicle collection notes are not required to be signed by customers for the duration of the Coronavirus epidemic. Instead, these must be signed on behalf of the customer by the site manager and submitted in the normal way with the invoicing pack.
Repairing 'Repairable' Total Loss
We encourage the repair of vehicles wherever possible, and Vizion suggest the repair total loss threshold should be extended beyond the normal 65% of the value of the vehicle and up to 100% of the vehicle in some cases. The reasoning behind this is to ensure repairers are kept busy with larger jobs requiring fewer logistical movements – when repair volumes are likely to reduce. Write offs are a direct loss to repairers and salvage agent's yards are likely to overflow if no auctions are held. Naturally, repairs should be restricted to repairable cases, i.e. what would otherwise be Category S and Category N salvage (Structural and Non Structural repairable salvage). Not Cat A or B (Scrap or Break for parts only). This change should assist repairers at a time when traffic is reduced and requires further discussion.
As for client support, we'll have to discuss the potential for web messages, phone diversion, basic scripts, or repairers being able to go ahead with repairs (within written parameters) by confirming cover with policyholder, or by policyholder providing images of cover via the customer choice portal. Then tie up loose ends when back to normal. Tasks completed based on prioritisation and risk balanced.
Although the government has introduced significant business support, Vizion is in discussion with clients to explore additional assistance that can be provided to repairers. We will be able to give an update on this in the next briefing. All clients should be assisting by petitioning the government for tax breaks, suspension of rates, grants, no interest loans, etc.