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Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-IbarraBehaviour change amidst COVID-19

by Michele Majul-Ibarra

There has been a lot of overwhelming information circulating in the news, social media and through word of mouth. From school closures in every corner of the globe to various concerts and sporting events postponed. We have seen a lot of press conferences and have also heard a lot of different versions of what we should do to prevent the further spread of the corona virus.

While all levels of the government have been proactive in their communication efforts to ensure the general public is well informed, there are still a lot of “loose cannons” out there for lack of a better word.

As an example, on March 13, 2020, CNN released a report that a JetBlue passenger who flew from New York to Florida on March 11, 2020 did not disclose to the airline that he was awaiting his COVID-19 test results. He learned the results of his test midair and only notified the crew after landing that his results came back positive. CNN reported cleaning immediately started for all the areas that he went through which included gates, security checkpoints, check-in counters and kiosks, elevators and restrooms.

While the airport officials took immediate action to address the matter, a lot of people who were exposed to this passenger are now at high risk of getting ill. This passenger’s wilful behaviour of not notifying the airline or the airport regarding his health status put not only their crewmembers at risk but also all the airport staff and travelers he came into close proximity with. Further spread of the virus is now inevitable because the entire airport has pretty much been compromised. If this passenger was your co-worker, would you want this person to continue coming in to work? Probably not.

Well, here is more bad news for you. Did you know that one in five confirmed COVID-19 patients in Singapore continued to go to work and attend events and activities despite being unwell?

According to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong of Singapore, many of their cases as of March 11, 2020 were linked to clusters in their community. This prompted huge concern because many of the locally transmitted cases arose from socially irresponsible actions of their people. The minister further revealed that 35 out of the 160 cases did not minimize social contact despite exhibiting respiratory symptoms.

“Presentee-ism” (i.e. when people show up for work sick) remains to be a difficult issue, especially if you are in a job that requires you to be present all the time. Take Sophie Trudeau as an example. She is the Prime Minister’s wife and also has a job of her own. She is an ambassador for numerous charities that require her to travel and speak in public all the time. Upon return from her recent travel to the U.K., she also tested positive for COVID-19 and as a result, the Prime Minister had to self-isolate as well.

Following the rapid spread of the virus, public health officials at all levels of government issued a guideline to the public on March 13, 2020, to mitigate further risk of spreading the virus. They recommended “social distancing” strategies to flatten the curve of COVID-19, which includes avoiding handshakes, making responsible decisions regarding travel, minimizing prolonged contact with others especially in public and postponing large scale social events and gatherings.

These new behaviours that we are being encouraged to do are not new to us. However, it may be difficult given that we would have to form new habits in order to succeed. Practice makes it perfect. When we keep practicing these behaviours, they will eventually become habits. Stay healthy and safe!



This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.

Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP holds an Advanced Certified HR Professional Designation with the International Personnel Management Association. E-mail her at

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