SINGAPORE (Jan 29): Earlier today, China’s National Health Commission announced that the death toll of the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 132 as of end-Tuesday, with the total number of cases in China coming up to 5,974. There are more than 9,000 suspected cases in China.

With the city of Wuhan now being on lockdown, companies with businesses in the area are affected.

One such is CapitaLand, as today the group announced that it has closed six malls in China – four in Wuhan and two in Xi'an – as required by the Chinese government. However, the supermarkets in CapitaMall Westgate, Wuhan and CapitaMall Xindicheng, Xi’an remain open to ensure the supply of food and daily essentials to the local communities.

Meanwhile, the rest of CapitaLand’s 45 retail network across China will continue to operate, but with shorter hours.

The six closed CapitaLand malls will reopen when local conditions permit, and the group will review the rest of its properties’ operating hours in line with local conditions and regulations.

CapitaLand’s wholly-owned lodging unit, The Ascott Limited is also extending its assistance to guests whose travel plans to China have been disrupted. Ascott will be accommodating its guests if they need to stay longer, or waive the cancellation fees for guests who have to change their travel plans.

For all of CapitaLand’s properties that remain open in China, the group announced that it has taken the necessary precautionary measures, in accordance with the guideline from local health authorities.

These include conducting temperature checks at its properties and intensifying cleaning and disinfecting of common areas. CapitaLand will conduct contact tracing and have designated premises at its properties for the isolation of persons suspected to be infected with the virus.

The group has also advised its tenants, shoppers, guests and employees to observe personal hygiene and monitor their health closely. They have been advised to seek medical attention immediately if they feel unwell. It is also providing hand sanitisers and face masks for employees, tenants, shoppers and guests.

As much as China is putting in efforts to contain the virus, as of Jan 28, there are a total of seven confirmed cases in Singapore.

For its Singapore properties, CapitaLand has implemented precautionary measures in accordance with guidelines from the Singapore authorities. Besides stepping up cleaning efforts, hand sanitisers are available for tenants, shoppers and guests. There are also designated premises with predetermined routes within its properties for the isolation of persons suspected to be infected with the virus.

At the construction sites, CapitaLand will take measures in accordance with the advisory issued by the Building & Construction Authority of Singapore. This includes advising main contractors in particular, to adopt practices such as implementing a robust sickness surveillance process to identify and manage unwell employees as well as to maintain a site attendance record and visitors' contact information for traceability.

All employees in Singapore are also to defer all non-critical travel especially to China and affected countries with known or suspected cases. Employees who have just returned from China are advised to check their temperature twice a day for 14 days. During the 14-day monitoring period, they are advised to adopt flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and teleconferencing.

In its effort to help the situation in China, CapitaLand, through its philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, has set up a RMB10 million healthcare fund to support relief efforts in China. Administered by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), the fund will be used to assist nationwide medical and healthcare related efforts in China’s fight against the virus.

Lee Chee Koon, Group CEO, CapitaLand Group says, “CapitaLand is monitoring developments of the Novel Coronavirus closely as the situation remains uncertain and continues to evolve. We have set up a special task force to co-ordinate our response across our operations in China and in the various markets where we operate. To date, the Group’s business operations, including in China and Singapore, remain largely stable. Our priority is to focus on ensuring the well-being of our tenants, shoppers, guests and employees.”

Manohar Khiatani, Senior Executive Director of CapitaLand Group, who has been appointed as the Group BCP Commander says, “CapitaLand’s business continuity plans guide our operations which includes how and when to limit the interaction of business-critical staff, to include working from alternate sites, working from home and the use of teleconferencing. Where necessary, operational personnel will be divided into primary and alternate teams. We will continue to monitor developments and the authorities’ directives, take the necessary steps to minimise impact to our operations and update our stakeholders in a timely manner.”

As at 12.15pm, shares in CapitaLand are trading at $3.69. The stock has shed about 5.1% since its closing price of $3.89 on Jan 24, before the Lunar New Year break.