1. Assess and prioritize sectors
Governments should assess and prioritize sectors to determine the right sequence for them to resume operations. The assessment criteria should include the relative economic contribution to GDP and risk of virus transmission, based on the typical proximity of employees within the workplace. This should be followed by an assessment of sub-sectors to account for unique exposure levels and the geographical readiness of healthcare systems to manage any potential resurgence of the virus.
2. Enact strict workforce protocols
Governments and employers should establish and enforce strict protocols for returning employees to ensure their safety. Protocols fall into different categories, ranging from medical readiness to engineering, hygiene, and travel. Further, GCC countries should focus on improving living conditions in sectors in which there is greater worker proximity and risk. This will be critical to prevent a repetition of what happened in Singapore where COVID-19 cases emerged in migrant laborers’ quarters after the government initially eased restrictions.
3. Conduct extensive testing and tracing
To reduce the risk of a renewed outbreak, governments need to deploy comprehensive testing and tracing mechanisms. Testing must include both the rapid antibody procedure, which requires a blood draw, and traditional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests to maximize detection. Mobile phone-based digital tracing systems are now available to identify and alert infected individuals, as well as people they have been in contact with.
4. Initiate a staged workforce return and protect at-risk individuals
Economic resumption plans need to take into account the age and health condition of workers to ensure the safety of those returning to the workplace and their families. These age and health factors have an important correlation with the hospitalization and mortality rates from COVID-19 infections. Governments should therefore tailor return-to-work schedules to the unique needs of individuals, while also considering at-risk people in the proximity of those employees, both at home and work. Government, businesses, and citizens must also take measures to reduce transmission risks along the entire commuter journey.
5. Engage openly and develop trust with the population
Ongoing engagement and communication measures are essential to build trust and inspire the population to behave responsibly. Governments should proactively communicate health-related measures and their underlying rationale to help the population cope with uncertainty. Governments can also nudge citizens to encourage them to maintain the healthy behaviors which they adopted during lockdown.