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Our response to COVID-19: March 13

13 March 2020

Three steps informing our response.

Three steps informing our response.

Like all of you, our team has been carefully following the spread of COVID-19.

We are sharing with you some of the measures we are taking at IDinsight to mitigate risks around COVID-19 as well as why we are taking these measures.

Effective today, we have instituted work from home policies and placed severe restrictions on work travel, both domestic and international (full list of changes are listed below). Importantly, we have implemented these restrictions in countries with numerous COVID-19 cases (e.g. the US and the Philippines), as well as in countries with fewer or even no reported cases (e.g. Senegal and Kenya).

Our basic approach, based on our reading of available evidence, is that “flattening the curve” requires us to take preventive action before it seems necessary. Waiting to take action until there are numerous cases means risking more rapid spread, especially to communities and health systems less equipped to deal with a pandemic.

We see the need for decisive, urgent action and encourage others to do the same.

Below are some of the steps that we took to develop our ongoing response. We also are interested in what you and your organization is doing to mitigate risks to colleagues and your communities. Please share in the comments or on social media.

  1. We created a task force. This task force consists of our public health, public policy and medical experts, our operations team which manages safety and security, as well as senior regional representatives from each country in which we work. This will ensure that evidence and expert opinions inform our decisions in this fast-changing environment.
  2. We established and agreed upon the goals below for our response, which align with our vision and mission to improve lives.
  • Protect the physical health and safety of our colleagues and their families.
  • Embody our social responsibility and obligation to flatten the curve by minimizing the risks we impose on the communities in which we work and live.
  • Maintain staff mental health and as much as possible, enable productivity.
  • Support Ministries of Health in countries in which we work, where possible.

3. We established and agreed upon the below principles for guiding action:

  • Where evidence exists to guide action, follow it. There is strong evidence supporting ‘social distancing’ and ‘de-densification’ to reduce the risk of further spreading the disease as well as the burden on our health systems. There is also strong evidence around practicing good hygiene and handwashing, which we are encouraging.
  • Where evidence is unclear, we will err on the side of aggressive and immediate precaution and smart harm reduction. We believe that we must take precautions before they seem necessary.

As of March 13, 2020 we took the following steps:

a) We have banned all work travel, to countries/regions with “elevated” or “high threat” of COVID-19 risks (CDC level 2 or level 3 alert).

b) We have a mandatory work-from-home period from March 13 — April 15 with limited exceptions that may apply to embedded teams, fieldwork, and other personal considerations. The underlying goal of enforcing a work-from-home policy is to maximize social distancing. If social distancing isn’t possible from home and the office is a better alternative, we will make recommendations accordingly. We included a time period for which we would be working from home so that team members can make decisions about what they need to prepare. We are equipping teams to work from home with stipends for mobile data, guidelines for team meetings, and tips to help everyone stay productive.

c) We are requiring prior approval for all external work events and travel between March 13 and April 15th. In our approval process, we will be taking into consideration the number of people at the event, the travel to and from the event, and assessing risk based on how much social distancing is possible.

d) We shared that local needs and requirements take precedence over the above list. If there are local restrictions on travel, meetings, or remote work, those take priority over any global instructions.

There are still outstanding risks to our work, especially for our field and embedded teams. We are in the process of developing criteria to identify and assess those risks so that we can put appropriate policies in place. We will continue to share our approach and action in the coming weeks and months.

We would not take these steps if we did not have compelling data to drive these decisions. We do believe that these efforts are not only necessary for the health and safety of our team, but also necessary to fulfill our obligations as responsible citizens in the communities in which we live.