Preparedness Planning Vital For Economy Facing Threat Of Influenza Pandemic

?Promoting Pandemic Influenza Preparedness for the Private Sector? seminar in Bangkok, Thailand, held on April 2-4, 2007 emphasized that government and businesses in strategic sectors, such as public utilities, labor, banking, telecommunications, and media, must work together to respond to a potential human influenza outbreak.

Government and business must work together to respond to a potential human influenza outbreak, but most Thai businesses and state enterprises need help to develop effective preparedness plans, senior officials said Monday.

?Preparing for pandemic influenza is not only a responsibility of the government,? said Dr. Thawat Suntrajarn, Director General of the Department of Disease Control. ?Public utilities, labor, banking, telecommunications, media and other sectors must keep its employees safe from the pandemic flu, maintain the continuity of business operations and ensure uninterrupted delivery of key public goods and services in the event of an outbreak,? he told participants at a workshop of planning for an influenza pandemic.

?The private sector has begun to prepare, but it is not enough,? Dr. Thawat said. ?Avian Influenza is a virus with a high mortality rate, so if it becomes easily transmissible from human to human, the pandemic could be devastating.?

To help companies develop effective plans, the Influenza Foundation of Thailand (IFT), in partnership with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, the Department of Disease Control and private companies such as Sanofi Pasteur, Roche, Esso, Thai Airways, AIG and Shell set up the workshop entitled ?Promoting Pandemic Influenza Preparedness for the Private Sector.? More than 230 private sector executives participated in the three-day workshop to help develop plans to deal with an influenza pandemic among businesses critical to Thailand?s economy including utilities, banking, energy, transportation, agribusiness, health and tourism sectors.

?Lessons learned from past experience reveal that a well formulated and implemented pre-pandemic plan will help reduce the impact of an outbreak,? said Dr. Prasert Thongcharoen, Chairman of IFT, at the seminar being held at the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel April 2-4, 2007.

Dr. Prasert added, ?Thailand has developed and is implementing a national pandemic influenza preparedness plan. However, the plan focuses mainly on public health preparedness, giving scant mention of the need for preparedness in other related sectors.?

Dr. Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, a consultant to the Ministry of Public Health, told the workshop that there were various estimates of the impact of an influenza pandemic in Thailand. One estimate, from an Israeli study, indicated that an estimated 8 million Thais could need hospitalization.

He said that with only a 0.2% mortality rate, about 130,000 Thais could die from a pandemic. He said businesses should plan to operate with one-third of their employees to be unable to come in to work.

In key industries, such as tourism, revenue could decline by 80%, he said.

With support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the Global Development Alliance (GDA) initiative, IFT is conducting wide-scale dissemination of information to the private sector, with this seminar being the first in a series of events that will be held throughout the year. The GDA strategy aims to improve readiness and response capacity through public-private partnerships in planning and preparedness, surveillance, outbreak response, and communications.

The workshop focused on the importance of business continuity planning and provided participants with tools and frameworks for formulating plans that are specific to their business sector. Participants came from companies the utilities sector such as TOT, CAT, and Thai Postal Company, from energy companies including PEA and EGAT, from Thai and foreign commercial banks, and from chicken processing businesses.

?Projects such as these will enable Thailand?s economy to continue to prosper, even in the face of a potential pandemic,? said Dr. John MacArthur, Infectious Diseases Advisor of the General Development Office, USAID?s Regional Development Mission in Asia, which is funding the IFT along with contributions from the Ministry of Public Health and the private sector.

Dr. MacArthur added, ?With management support from the Kenan Institute Asia, the GDA program has been instrumental in forging a public-private alliance between IFT, Thailand?s Ministry of Public Health, and private sector partners under the ?Building Partnerships for the Prevention and Control of Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza in the Greater Mekong Subregion (PAI)? program?

The Kenan Institute Asia (K.I.Asia) is a Bangkok-based non-profit development foundation working to build sustainable competitiveness in the Greater Mekong Subregion. It is supporting six GDAs in Thailand and Vietnam to prepare for and address pandemic and avian influenza.

For more information, contact Darin Phaovisaid, Consultant - Strategic Corporate Citizenship, Kenan Institute Asia at darinp ( @ ) kiasia dot org or +66-2-229-3131 extension 233.

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Company Name: Kenan Institute Asia/dar in Phaovisaid
Issued By: Darin Phaovisaid
Phone: +66-2-229-3131
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by Darin Phaovisaid (few years ago!)

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