In this historical moment full of radical changes and heavily impacted by the pandemic that is affecting the whole globe, it is important to be aware of what happens in different regions and of how they are responding to the crisis.
In this framework INSME presents a series of interviews with stakeholders from all over the world in order to understand which are the measures implemented to face the current emergency and how initiatives, projects promoted by companies could contribute to overcome the crisis.
The first interview with Mr. Matthew Skinner, Regional Managing Director of Intertek Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan explores what is going on in the Arab region and in particular in the Gulf countries and how Intertek is dealing with this unprecedented situation.
Q. How GCC countries are facing the current emergency?
A. Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic differed from country to country in the Arab region, but countries in the Gulf specifically had a rapid response and introduced comprehensive measures including massive testing efforts, financial government support packages and regular communication, amongst other things. All the countries in the GCC closed their schools and universities by the middle of March, followed by closure of non-essential businesses and strict measures for movement restriction and disinfection of crowded areas. The situation is being monitored closely by the countries’ authorities as businesses prepare to gradually reopen in the region. Recently, individual countries in the GCC have enabled essential sectors, shops and businesses to reopen for the public at an earlier stage than others. The authorities in the UAE and Oman, for example, have issued safety and hygiene advisories for hotel establishments prior to their reopening. Malls in the UAE have also been permitted to increase their capacity again, and the airports in the country are also set to reopen for transit and repatriation flights.
At Intertek, we are working proactively to support businesses facing the current challenges, and we have launched various new services that make the transition to reopen smoother for our customers across industries, whether in oil and gas, travel and hospitality, or other sectors.
Q. Which measures are being implemented to support SMEs’ recovery from the Covid-19?
The governments around the region have already taken steps to introduce recovery plans and stimulus packages, as well as other incentives to support the SMEs. Around USD 97 billion of support measures have been announced across the region to combat the impact of the coronavirus. These include a mixture of loans, visa extensions and fees/rates deferrals. In the UAE, the government announced an emergency stimulus plan early on to support the economy and curb the impact of the crisis. Saudi Arabia has also announced a USD 13.3 billion stimulus package for SMEs in the Kingdom.
At Intertek, we realise that the world has changed and never before has health, safety and wellbeing been so vital to every aspect of our lives, whether in schools, universities, supermarkets, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and offices, whether the company works in oil and gas or in finance. For that, we have developed a programme that provides a range of risk-based quality assurance and verification services for the prevention of the spread of infection in all facilities and all sectors.
Q. Projects or initiatives you are working on and that could be of inspiration for peer organizations around the world.
We understand that all stakeholders, including customers, employees, employers and tourists are nervous about the risk of infection from Covid-19. According to a study conducted in April, health, safety, and wellbeing in the workplace, in public transportation, public spaces, and at home is now the number one concern for business leaders, employees and consumers.
As a result, we have launched Protek, which is an end-to-end health, safety and well-being assurance programme that is industry agnostic. It is designed to provide businesses, employees, and consumers the confidence they need to operate in the post-COVID-19 scenario. The programme provides systemic risk-based quality assurance and verification across sectors, and it offers the tools needed, from individual models to turnkey solutions, from facility health assessment, cleaning and disinfecting process oversight and post-cleaning verification, to compliance reporting and certification across schools and education sites, transportation hubs and manufacturing plants.
Protek is designed to help businesses obtain independent assurance that they are fulfilling their duty of care that gives all their stakeholders the peace of mind and assurance they need in this “new normal”.