Measures to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic (Part II)

The new coronavirus outbreak has hit the economy hard. With businesses closing, city curfews, manufacturing shutdowns, there has been a detrimental effect on the global economy.  Here’s a summary of measures taken by countries and construction companies  to address the pandemic.

There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, especially for contractors and small businesses in the construction industry. It’s important for any business, especially companies whose work involves going into people’s homes and places of business, to act when an unpredictable pandemic like coronavirus suddenly emerges. While many businesses have been forced to halt operations indefinitely, some essential businesses, which in many states includes construction (critical trades), are still operating. To better protect themselves, their employees, and their clients, those business owners should consider the following tips.


During times like this, no potential signs of the virus can be allowed on the jobsite. If anyone is displaying acute respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, fever or shortness of breath), they pose a potential virus transmission risk. No one should return to work until their temperature is lower than 37.8° C for at least 24 hours and they feel well enough to do their job effectively.

For businesses with more than one employee, owners should review sick-leave policies and make sure they are flexible enough to accommodate the current environment. It might not be the employee, but their family member, that ends up sick, so be prepared for people to have to miss work to care for a sick child or relative. Finally, waive any requirements for notes from health care professionals to validate illness. Physicians’ offices and medical facilities are extremely busy, and those requests are not their priority.


Viruses and bacteria can linger almost anywhere for hours, so regularly wipe down cell phones, workstations, handles, doorknobs, truck interiors and tools with a disinfectant. Contractors should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at least three to four times throughout the day and avoid touching their faces. If possible, purchase 60% to 95% alcohol-based hand sanitizer and apply it in addition to regular hand washing.


With many businesses temporarily closed and a lot of people working from home, there may be opportunities to take on projects in vacant office spaces or businesses. If contractors can pivot to those types of projects, they are protecting themselves, their families and the general public. For projects that involve contact with other people, contractors should be sure to follow guidelines about maintaining two meters of distance.


Another way to practice social distancing during this time is to work towards going paperless and automating business processes that were previously handled manually. Contractors can upgrade the tools they use to conduct everyday business, such as mobile invoicing and estimating, as well as add an easy online option for payments. This will reduce the amount of person-to-person contact and enforce social distancing protocols by eliminating the need to collect checks in person or visit a crowded bank. By moving more functions online, contractors can show they are adapting to the current environment, as well as create efficiencies that are effective now and will continue to be in the future.


With COVID-19 making headlines every morning and information changing hourly, it’s important to have the most up-to-date information. Staying on top of breaking developments will help contractors make better-informed decisions regarding their day-to-day operations and help them prepare for the impacts of new safety measures and restrictions. Contractors staying informed on, and following, the latest recommendations from health care professionals and government officials will also demonstrate that they are taking the situation seriously and give customers peace of mind about working with them.


Ideally, this would constitute of senior managers from HR, Admin, HSE, and Finance. Get the full team aligned with the true severity of the macro COVID-19 situation and worst-case financial scenarios. The Crisis team should set safety as the number one priority and set cash conservation and liquidity as a secondary priority. Avoid inaction or “wait and see” approach which could damage the company. The team should have an Agile Methodology in announcing policies and mode of operations.


You can control the sending hand brakes by initiating immediate actions (e.g. hiring freeze, opex, capex, working capital). Similarly, set aggressive break-the-glass cost actions triggered by more extreme revenue scenarios. Outline a medium-term plan to lean out the cost structure for the future. It should be a plan that is more automated, more variable and, more shock resistant.


Stabilize supply chains of physical goods from likely geographic and labor disruptions while building contingency operational plans for all aspects of the business.


Many contractors and small construction businesses will likely have to pause their work at some point because of safety recommendations. When that happens, it will be vital that they communicate quickly and clearly with their suppliers about why projects have to be delayed, an updated timeline if possible and what suppliers can expect moving forward. Regularly calling suppliers with updates will also go a long way in maintaining that relationship in the long term.


It’s the hallmark of a great business owner to keep things in perspective and not allow the quick tempo of the current situation to affect the company’s priorities. Along with listening to and being there for clients and employees, business owners should be a source of steady guidance. The current obstacles are temporary, but clients and staff won’t forget effective, calm leadership. This is an opportunity to learn, work together and become stronger in the long run. Viewing it as such will benefit contractors, clients and the industry as a whole.

What about Government Measures taken during the COVID-19 crisis?

Europe’s construction sector has issued a joint statement calling for urgent measures to protect workers’ health, support economic activity and help the sector to recover in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Specific short-term measures requested of European Member States are as follows:

  • Put in place tailor-made health and safety measures, protocols and guidelines with the active involvement of relevant stakeholders
  • Support the construction supply chain by putting in place measures allowing the efficient functioning of the EU (European Union) internal market
  • Carry out massive support and stimulus program
  • Ease the administrative burden and the conditions for employers to implement temporary unemployment measures.

The statement added: “A performing construction supply chain is crucial for maintaining the activity, with proper health and safety conditions. It is therefore essential to guarantee the circulation of construction products; equipment and provision of services in full respect of the instructions delivered by public health authorities.

The UAE has proved to be an example of countries’ proactive initiatives to addressing the pandemic.

  • Complete sterilization of public spaces. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has completed the sterilization of the Dubai Metro and the Dubai Tram. This includes all 47 metro stations, 79 trains, 11 tram stations and Dubai Trams. The RTA will also be sterilizing its 1,372 buses, five bus depots and 17 bus stations. The sterilisation covered the entire fleet of Dubai Taxi, limousines and shared transport (smart rental) operating in Dubai, which exceed 17,000, as per the RTA. Roads and Transport Authority has taken all the necessary preventive measures during the past few weeks to ensure the highest levels of protection for users of public transportation, whether through continuous sterilization and cleaning operations for all of these means, or through the precautionary measures that it imposed and began applying in regulating transportation use Public and ensure physical separation and other measures aimed at preserving health and safety for all, and reducing the chances of spreading the virus.
  • Screening Facility, drive-thru testing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Taking the new centre developed by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company-SEHA, allow for The mobile testing facility to dedicate efforts for testing individuals for coronavirus, as part of the country’s precautionary measures to address the spread of COVID-19.Checks are done in 5 minutes, while the center provides services to about 600 people daily starting from 8am to 8pm daily.
  • Increased regulations to promote social distancing by closing all leisure industries and imposing lockdowns and curfews. To support the current precautionary measures in cooperation with the Health Authority, the TRA (Telecommunication Regulatory Authority) in coordination with the service providers launched an awareness voice message when making a phone call, and SMS alerts sent 30 minutes before the lockdown and again 1 minute before lockdown. In Dubai, the 24 hour sterilization campaign will last for 2 weeks during which only vital industries such as healthcare, supermarkets, logistics and construction are active, and this is controlled through the issuance of permits.
  • Drivers of cars need to be wearing masks and only 3 passengers are allowed in sedans, and a 20% reduction of capacity in buses.
  • Labor camps are under strict scrutiny to test all suspicious employees

In addition to the focus on tackling the spread of the coronavirus, the UAE government is also addressing head on any collateral damage resulting from the economical slowdown. On April 4th, the UAE’s central bank doubled its banking stimulus package to US$70 billion as business sentiment eroded in the Gulf’s commercial centre. The announcement followed new measures to guarantee liquidity in the banking system. The package expanded on a previously announced AED126 billion (US$34.3 billion) program to assist its lenders. The central bank has also postponed the planned implementation of certain Basel III capital standards to 31st March 2021 for all banks with the aim of diminishing the operational burden on the financial industry. The overall stimulus which consists largely of monetary and off budget measures account for more than 10% of the UAE’s economy.  On April 1st, the UAE cabinet announced additional measures, notably improving payment terms for contractors involved in government contracts as well as exempting companies from any fines that accrue from any delays caused by the COVID-19 virus. For payments, the cabinet instructed federal ministries and bodies to pay contractors and suppliers within 15 days; while for contract delays, suppliers impacted by COVID-19 are exempted from fines for delays on federal government contracts for a renewable period of three months. The cabinet also directed that small and medium suppliers will be awarded 90% of federal government purchases. Those measures come after the UAE cabinet approved a US$4.4 billion economic stimulus package that includes a renewable six-month suspension of work permit fees and reduction of labor and other charges that aim to accelerate major infrastructure projects across the federation. On March 16th, the Central Bank of UAE (CBUAE) lowered key lending rates, following a 1% rate cut by the Fed to counter the economic effects of COVID-19, which will adversely impact profitability of UAE banks, according to rating agency Moody’s. Leading Dubai banks have announced a series of relief measures for customers affected by COVID-19

Contractor Case Study: The example of RAQ Contracting

The pandemic has impacted almost all sectors and industries, posing severe challenges for businesses, including the contracting companies, like RAQ Constracting. The supply chain for special items required by the construction industry has been affected as many vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers have either stopped working or are working in reduced capacities. One of the most immediate challenges was the reduced capacity on UAE’s transport infrastructure, resulting in labor shortages and productivity on project sites. To combat this, RAQ provided additional vehicles and buses for staff transportation and some making multiple trips during the day to ensure healthy progress on site. Understanding the critical nature of the current situation, RAQ has begun conducting COVID-19 awareness sessions to its staff and workers in order to keep operations running in a safe environment. RAQ persists during the COVID-19 crisis by carrying out a deliberate strategic plan and keeping projects’ progression in check, along with ensuring the well-being of the employees. The Contractor is committed to doing its part by ensuring the health & safety of its employees and visitors by following these guidelines:

  • Check-in/out is done through iris or facial recognition instead of biometrics
  • Forehead temperature of employees and visitors are taken by an infrared thermometer and recorded for the HSE heads to take action if required
  • Personal items, desks, chairs, and other unattended items are being disinfected before and after working hours on all sites
  • Social distancing is practiced among employees and other visitors. Employees who can work remotely are encouraged to stay home to maintain working individuals at the office to “essentials only.”
  • Hand sanitizing dispensers are placed at entrances and exits of every room.
  • Pantry staff must wear gloves and masks at all times
  • Self-quarantine is imposed on employees experiencing symptoms or returning from travel
  • Staff and workers dorms along with site offices are undergoing periodic disinfection
  • RAQ had implemented a new seating chart policy for its employees to reduce the office capacity by 30% and ensure that social distancing is practiced
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are being distributed daily amongst RAQ employees
  • Furthermore, all transport vehicles are disinfected regularly, and commonly touched surfaces are sanitized twice daily. Hand sanitizing dispensers are fixed on all vehicles. To ensure that regulations to adhere to strictly, a clear instruction list has been issued to all transportation/logistics and sites to reduce the capacity to 25% in all transport vehicles.

Supplier Case Study: The example of NFT

At NFT, we are committed to our customers, employees and communities.

Our occupational activities are relatively safe and in line with provisions taken to combat spread of COVID-19. We work with steel structures in open spaces that are exposed to the sun and high heat, which makes it resistant to spreading of the virus by nature. However, the exposure remains with the human element outside those activities such as commuting to work and personal lives’ activities. This is why we are monitoring closely the latest developments surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, and updating our action plans with full vigilance according to the latest protocols of health and safety shared by the UAE authorities as well as international recommendations. The health and safety of our employees and customers are and have always been our number one priority.

First step in facing any hazard is to conduct risk assessments and act according to the scientific recommendations to tackle the hazards. Our response covered several aspects to insure safety of our employees as our prime concern, and continuation of flow or work as long as the construction sector is still active in the UAE. We adjusted our modus operandi and adopted several work procedures according to International Recommendations and mitigation measures mandated by the UAE Government. Our updates, guidelines and recommendations come from trusted sources who are experts in the field, such as Department of Health in the UAE, World Health Organization (WHO), or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From the very early stages, we set up Crises Management Committee formed from out top management, QHSE, Administration, Operations, and HR departments. The job of this committee is to follow up on the current situation, development of COVID-19, contact with UAE officials, contact with our sister companies overseas, and come up with measures in line with the official recommendations. NFT conducted more than 15 dissemination and awareness sessions about the virus and methods to control its spread to different groups in multilanguages. We made sure that the sessions we tailored to each group to reach all our employees and each in their vocation. Special attention sessions and trainings were conducted with sanitation people, drivers, or the more vulnerable groups who can be more exposed as per our risk assessment surveys.  In addition, flyers, posters, videos, and publications were circulated wherever possible inside the offices, workshop, vehicles, and even labor camps dormitories.

Highest risks and challenges occur while commuting to work or living in labor camps that have high concentration of people. With the extraordinary efforts of the health authorities in the UAE, we managed to screen all our working force and implement extra precautions in collaboration of labor camps management. Commuting to work according to the UAE authorities directives, follows 30% occupancy in the vehicles. Effectively it means, we tripled our busses to labor camps, we increased our fleet/trips of small vehicles and minibuses. In addition, we added separate plastic sheet inside the busses in order to separate the driver from the passengers. Deep disinfection is carried out for the whole yard periodically and upon need. On the other hand, all teams were divided into segregated groups that work in isolation from each other. In case any symptoms appear on any of the team members, the one with symptoms would go for check up, while the others in the same team would be sent to self-isolation until further verification of the health conditions. Meanwhile, the job would be carried out with another group, hence keeping work flow uninterrupted.

In parallel, the same measures were conducted to maintain social distancing in the office, when possible the employees could carry out their jobs without the need to come to office. In case coming to office is essential, we restructured the office distribution as to maintain necessary social distancing as recommended. An infrared gun thermometer was placed at the reception for all those entering to voluntarily check their temperatures. A special team is deployed for disinfecting all surfaces, office appliances, door knobs, handles, restroom facilities, round the clock during working hours. Paper circulation was reduced to minimum, and when necessary special disinfected plastic files were used to carry the papers.Masks and gloves are distributed in different types and frequency according to the risk analysis.Special awareness sessions and measures are put in place for the more Vulnerable people (by virtue of their age, underlying health condition, clinical condition or are expecting). They follow the highest strict precautions.Fingerprinting for sign in/out were temporarily deactivated and replaced with photo/ web sign in/out.Provided additional handwashing facilities with soap, and if not available hand sanitizing solutions, especially in vehicles, and at building hallways, entrances, and exits.We increased rubbish bins number and rubbish collection, and spread them in order to reduce any remaining.We reduced site meetings to absolute necessary ones whether external meeting or internal. When possible, we use virtual meetings using technology as Microsoftteams.

Manufacturer Case Study: The example of Terex

Guided by the Terex Way values, the tower crane supplier is working hard to ensure business continuity while following strict preventive guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.  They continue with shipping equipment, the fabrication of parts and the full operation of service centers. Globally, the parts customer service is open with team members working remotely, equipped with the required tools and access to respond to customer inquiries through a number of channels, including for Materials Processing businesses, for Genie, for Terex Utilities, and Terex Service Centers, call centers and other flexible delivery alternatives. However, Terex has temporarily suspended manufacturing operations in certain locations, responding to changing customer demand and complying with government mandates to close facilities.  Nonetheless, this has not stopped the manufacturer from releasing their field service team from supporting customers on site. Technicians are supporting customers and others virtually (e.g., phone, video conference) as much as possible

An Opportunity amidst the crisis

It should come as no surprise that the COVID-19 global pandemic hasn’t impacted all industries equally. Some businesses, including department stores, traditional restaurants and childcare centers, have suffered devastating losses as a result of stay-at-home orders and social distancing protocols; others, such as food delivery businesses, digital advertising agencies and subscription services, are experiencing unprecedented surges in sales.

As example is Saudi Arabia’s local online retailer BinDawood Holding who, since the escalation of the Covid- 19 crisis, has had average sales on a 10-day basis increase by 200%, while its average order value rose by 50% and app installations by 400%. The company has two e-commerce platforms – BinDawood and Danube – which are connected to their respective supermarket and hypermarket chains, enabling customers to purchases groceries and other goods online.

Elsewhere, fellow Saudi grocery delivery app Nana has also benefitted from the recent turn towards online shopping, raising $18m in a Series B funding round in late March to expand operations across the Middle East, with investors including venture capital funds Saudi Technology Ventures and Middle East Venture Partners. This follows a Series A funding round that raised $6m last year. The company has expanded capacity three-fold following a surge in demand associated with the Covid-19 outbreak. This is expected to continue in light of the Saudi government’s decision to impose tighter curfews in major cities.

The surge of video conferencing is remarkable. An example is the Zoom, who despite scrutiny over security issues, has seen its market value skyrocket to some $35 billion. As people around the world stay home due to coronavirus risk, Zoom has become a go-to service for remote education, exercise classes, games, church services and happy hour celebrations. Couples have gotten married in “zoomed” ceremonies. Birthdays have been celebrated. Funerals have been virtually attended.

In addition to the increase in production of PPE and flu fighting supplements and medication, there is an increasing trend of building remote testing facilities by governments. To address the need for testing in urban areas for those without vehicles, CannonDesign architect Albert Rhee created a walk-in testing booth that is slated for public use. Keeping medical professionals healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential in both slowing the rate of infection and meeting heightened staffing needs. Many governments and healthcare providers are finding this to be a difficult task due to the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies. A walk-in testing booth provides an alternative solution that eliminates physical provider-patient exposure in a modular format that is simple to deploy for temporary testing operations. The design is based on testing operations already in place at Yang Ji General Hospital in Seoul, South Korea (featured in this YouTube video). Similar solutions have emerged throughout the world, but design development and production seem to be limited to single-user, single-site applications.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also pushed some companies to launch new products catering to the fear amongst consumers. Paint manufacturer Caparol has announced a new interior paint product with anti-microbial properties that that it says uses silver ions to bind and destroy the cell membrane of biological contaminants, including bacteria and viruses. Caparol Arabia, the UAE arm of the German paints multinational, claims its ‘CapaCare Protect’ is “an innovative and sustainable solution that provides better protection against harmful micro-organisms”. The new solution, which contains the company’s patented and advanced ‘SILVERbac’ technology, is said to secure walls and surfaces from bio-harm. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Caparol Arabia says it has launched further testing to check its antimicrobial paint effectiveness at reducing the spread. However, the antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of silver ions and silver compounds have been extensively studied for years.


Sources: 9/143142.article?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Construction+and+Coronavirus+-+30th+March+2020&utm_term=C%26C

The Impact of the COVID-19 on the UAE’s Construction Industry

The new coronavirus outbreak has hit the economy hard. With businesses closing, city curfews, manufacturing shutdowns, there has been a detrimental effect on the global economy.  Here’s a summary of the report issued by Global Data on April 8th 2020.

Prior to the outbreak, UAE’s construction sector had posted growth of 3.3% in real terms in 2019 and was expected to grow by 4.3% in 2020, given various government initiatives such as the Energy Strategy 2050, the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme and the Dubai Tourism Strategy. However, amid the worsening situation with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak and the decline in oil prices, GlobalData has cut its forecast for construction output growth to 0.5% in 2020 and 4.1% in 2021. This central forecast is based on a positive scenario that the outbreak will mostly be contained in the second quarter of 2020, such that restrictions on travel will be eased thereafter.  Infrastructure projects are a key part of the UAE’s economic expansion, but there are risks to investment growth owing to weakness in the oil sector, which poses a downside risk to the forecast. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai is intent on going ahead with the implementation of all planned national projects and value-added initiatives.

People who work on construction projects in Dubai are exempted from the 24-hour Sterilisation Programme but are subject to obtaining a permit from Dubai Municipality and the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs.  However, Dubai-based Emaar, the biggest developer in the Emirate, has suspended construction work on various projects and introduced a new salary structure amid the economic disruption caused by the novel virus and lockdown policies in place. Work has been suspended on projects in Downtown Dubai, Dubai South and Dubai Creek Harbour. The government’s economic and fiscal policies will continue to be partly guided by global oil price movements, as the emirate of Abu Dhabi, which funds a major share of federal spending, is still heavily reliant on oil revenue.

ADNOC, the state run oil company of Abu Dhabi, has notified contractors and suppliers that it will review existing deals to find ways to cut costs due to the steep slide in oil prices. ADNOC announced it would raise its oil supply to a record 4 million bpd in April, about 1 million bpd more than current output as it speeds up production capacity expansion projects. Italian E&P oil major ENI, one of ADNOC ‘s main partners in major upcoming projects, has recently declared plans to review all ongoing projects in the Middle East. It has announced to reduce 2020 and 2021 capital expenditure by US$2.2 billion and about US$3 billion, equivalent to 25% and 30% of its initially planned amount, respectively.

Construction in the energy and utility sector will feel the brunt of plunging oil prices. Abu Dhabi’s energy department postponed the announcement of winning bids for a solar power plant and is monitoring energy prices and supply chains. A plan by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to launch a new benchmark for its flagship Murban crude oil grade may be delayed beyond June as it awaits regulatory approvals amid current uncertain market conditions, this constitutes a hit for the energy market in Abu Dhabi.

Investment activity is likely to slow in the UAE as investors react to uncertainty, with the retail and hospitality sectors being the most affected. The commercial sector in Dubai, the region’s most diversified economy, has been hit hard by the disruption to global travel, with tourism expected to lose 5%-6% of GDP this year if virus containment measures were to last for another three to four months. Expo 2020, which Dubai is to host, is also in doubt after the event’s organizers backed a proposal to postpone it for a year due to the pandemic. However, postponing the event for 2021 could be positive as many construction companies would then have more time to complete their projects and the pandemic should have passed with the world being ready to emerge from extended periods of lockdown and social distancing. It would also give the Emirate ample time to repurpose the event, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of UAE as a nation, with leaders planning to deliver a road map for the next 50 years in all sectors from infrastructure and economy to health and education.

Abu Dhabi’s hospitality sector, which has been a hub for hosting various types of events in 2019, attracting tourists and boosting the sector in the city, will also face the brunt of the contagion. The demand for hospitality sector in Abu Dhabi is expected to severely be impacted as new upcoming events, such as the F1 Grand Prix, and festivals scheduled for the year 2020 will be cancelled, which will affect the commercial sector in the city and potential derail future investment plans.

The residential sector in the UAE will be hit hard as a result of the outbreak. The sector has been facing headwinds in recent years, which GlobalData expects to intensify 2020, affecting investment flows into real estate from the wider region. The effects of this will be felt heavily in Dubai. Prior to the outbreak, the Dubai government had taken steps to limit future supply, with the formation of a new Real Estate Planning Committee in Q3 2019 to study the real estate market, evaluate all future projects and control the pace of projects. Developers are launching fewer new projects, which will be further re-assessed in light of the outbreak and focusing on the sale of existing inventories.



Message to our Stakeholders

At NFT, we are committed to our customers, employees and communities.

We are monitoring closely the latest developments surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, and follow with full vigilance the latest protocols of health and safety shared by the UAE authorities. The health and safety of our employees and customers are and have always been our number one priority.

As we continue to maintain the highest level of hygiene and care, NFT is implementing all the recommendations from trusted sources who are experts in the field, such as Department of Health in the UAE, World Health Organization (WHO), or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Some examples of measures taken by NFT to educate and protect its employees include:

  • Conducting awareness campaign through more than 13 sessions about the virus.
  • Distributing publications on awareness about the virus in several languages.
  • Conducting special sessions for the employees involved in sanitation activities.
  • Focused simulation sessions of best practices as recommended by experts.
  • Conducting special sessions for the drivers who transport employees.
  • Stopped any manual punching and attendance system.
  • Placed sanitizing stations and gloves across its offices.
  • Desensitized employee buses and gathering spaces.
  • Suspension of air travel and disbursement of employees within 2 meters.
  • Strict compliance with PPE on sites and in Workshop.
  • Voluntary body temperature monitoring by the HSE department.

It is our social responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus while ensure business continuity in support of the economies we are contributing to. Therefore, in this unprecedented times, NFT will continue to offer its products and services in a safe, responsible manner as long as we are able to do so. Our commitment to our clients is uninterrupted and we remain available in our office, through emails, by phone and through Microsoft Teams. NFT will respect clients’ preference in holding meetings on site or online.

We ask our clients who have taken our employees under their care to continue this vigilance like they would their own employees.

At NFT, we remain devoted to the communities we serve; and appreciate the collaborative nature in this global challenge.

Stay Safe!


Offices in the UAE: Head office, Workshop and Spare Parts in Al Dafra, Hameem Road, Exit 205, Abu Dhabi, P.O.Box: 28037. Saturday to Thursday from 8AM to 4:30 PM.

Tel: 02 6730778. Email:

Office in Dubai: The Curve Building, Fist Floor, F14, P.O.Box: 11043. Saturday to Thursday from 8AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 04 4470391. Email:

Construction and COVID-19 (Part I)

The new coronavirus outbreak has hit the economy hard. With businesses closing, city curfews, manufacturing shutdowns, there has been a detrimental effect on the global economy.

With social distancing and stricter stay at home policies being rolled out to contain the spread of COVID 19, the construction industry, across the globe, has been indirectly affected amidst this pandemic. Where some private construction sectors have implemented remote working which will result in impacting essential administrative procedures for site work to progress, others continue functioning ‘as usual’ in the UAE.

Amid the worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the drastic measures taken by authorities to restrict travel and economic activity, confidence levels among construction industry executives have plummeted, according to GlobalData’s latest confidence survey. The Construction Confidence Index (CCI) in Q1 2020 fell to 34.6 points, down from 56.9 in Q4 2019. This marks the seventh consecutive decline in the CCI score, and is the lowest level recorded over the past four years. Confidence levels were already steadily declining, having dropped steadily over seven successive quarters, but this is the first time since the survey started (in 2014) that the CCI score has actually dropped below the 50-point mark, which implies that industry executives are pessimistic about the opportunities for growth in the coming six months. Also for the first time, confidence levels with regards to prospects of growth at the company level have dropped below the that recorded for prospects at the industry level, reversing the previous trend of respondents’ perception bias possibly overstating the company’s relative competitiveness.

Given the severe disruption in China and other leading economies worldwide following the COVID-19 outbreak, GlobalData’s forecast for construction output growth in 2020 has been revised down to 0.5%, compared to the previous forecast of 3.1% growth (in the Q4 2019 update).
This is provided that current forecast is based on a relatively positive central scenario that the outbreak is contained across all major markets by the end of the second quarter, further cuts to the growth forecast are likely.

The impact on the industry in the short term will be reflected in the halting of projects in execution, in terms of shutdowns and lack of materials and other issues relating to supply chain disruptions, as well as severe delays in progress on projects at pre-construction stages, given likely delays in processing of building permits, tendering and contract awards.
GlobalData recently surveyed construction industry executives globally to gauge the extent to which they have been subject to the impact of COVID-19. Notably, 68% agreed or strongly agreed that the COVID-19 outbreak had led to a halt in construction work, while 79% agreed or strongly agreed that it had led to delays in the commencement of new projects. The risk of project cancellations is also high. The survey shows that 49% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that COVID-19 had resulted in project cancellations.

The UAE Scheme

Global economic activity has slowed sharply following the rapid spread of the virus. The pandemic has caused business closures, city curfews, travel bans, financial market upheavals and manufacturing shutdowns in major global economic hubs. To aid industries, the Central Bank has introduced an AED100 billion Targeted Economic Scheme. This scheme aims to “to contain the repercussions of the pandemic COVID-19”. Out of the AED100 billion, 50 billion DHS will be set aside for all UAE banks at zero-cost so that they can boost their lending capacity.

This package is intended to support banks and businesses during the Coronavirus crisis for up to six months. Experts in the field say this package will be beneficial for the local construction sector, which includes small and medium-sized design and contracting enterprises.  The UAE government has managed to suspend social activities without a severe effect on economic output. In the construction sector, remote working, which some private sector employers in the UAE have voluntarily offered, could impact administrative procedures that are essential for site works to progress, such as sign-offs and schedule management.  Meanwhile, even though cargo travel currently faces fewer restrictions than passenger flights, supply chain disruptions are likely to deepen in the weeks ahead. China – the world’s largest exporter and the epicentre of COVID-19 – has only just begun a slow recovery after its factories were shut down for almost two months to curb the spread of the virus.

What about Expo2020 starting this October? The Expo 2020 Dubai has addressed in an official statement – concerns about its plans and preparations – amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Expo 2020 Dubai Steering Committee stated that it is exploring the possibility of pushing the big show by one year: “While everyone involved in Expo 2020 Dubai remains firmly committed, many countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and they have expressed a need to postpone Expo’s opening by one year, to enable them to overcome this challenge”, adding that it closely monitoring ongoing developments and taking all sensible precautions to manage and mitigate the risk to all those involved while adhering to the guidelines issued by the Dubai Health Authority, Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), and World Health Organisation, with due diligence.

Workers Safety is nothing new

All construction sites have undertaken the necessary precautionary measures such as maintaining hygiene and adding hand sanitiser stations throughout the sites, some sites are even checking people’s temperatures before entering as well as maintaining proper PPE. Since most workers are working outside, this should be the safest means of work. However, caution needs to be taken in camps, bus and rest areas.

Churning out Solutions 

Despite the levels of uncertainty, steps are being taken by all contractors and businesses to be as prepared as possible for the future effects of the crisis.  Construction sectors are working closely with stakeholders to identify the greatest risks and coordinate their efforts to prevent the impacts that may arise. Much stricter hygiene and sanitisation regulations are being implemented by all firms to keep their workers safe on site. Some firms are testing smaller groups of workers present on the sites at a time.

Solutions such as asking workers to maintain a set amount of distance amongst themselves, cleaning out job-site trailers on a regular basis daily, and hiring commercial cleaners to clean and disinfect areas of the project can prove highly beneficial when it comes to flattening the curve while still going forth with regular construction activities.

Online communication applications such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom are an added perk since firms do not have to put a complete halt to their meetings with clients, subcontractors, and other business partners.

It is anticipated that the timeline will  be at least 10 months away, meaning that hygienic and exposure-control measures will continue to be the first line of defense for most governments.  In many countries around the world, hospitals or care facilities are emerging over night as the number of infected cases increased.

The Chinese Scheme

China has resumed construction on just under 90% of ‘key projects’ according to an official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Construction of 89.1% of 11,000 key projects is ongoing – although this figure does not include the Hubei Province which suffered large numbers of people being infected with Coronavirus. About 60% of workers have gone back to the construction sites, but that does not mean they’re all working. Because of the logistical problems facing the industry, construction materials cannot be delivered to sites. Less than 50% of tower cranes are operating because not enough skilled workers have come back to work. In Shanghai, for example, less than 80% of projects have started back up for local contractor Shanghai Construction Group. For other contractors, it’s less than 50%. Dealers have been struggling with a lack of cash flow for the last two months. But to cope with the return of the market, in particular the excavator sector, in March a number of excavator dealers have been recruiting additional staff. With the encouraging policies for construction activity, the dealers are more confident and in a better position than businesses in other industries.

The European Scheme

Almost one third of CECE (Committee for European Construction Equipment) members included in a survey are being “significantly affected” by the COVID-19 pandemic with 30% already closing factories, a new survey published by the CECE on March 23 and 27. The CECE represents the interests of national construction equipment manufacturer associations in 13 European countries including some 1,200 companies that employ approximately 300,000 people directly and indirectly. The flash Barometer survey carried out between 23rd and 27th March shows clear concerns amongst CECE member companies with 32% of respondents being significantly affected by the crisis and 30% already closing factories. The report states that “the COVID-19 pandemic challenges the customer-related issues, namely shutdown of construction sites and cancellation of projects. With 40% of respondents foreseeing between 10% and 30% decrease in sales one thing is certain: the COVID-19 crisis is affecting and will affect the construction equipment sector.

Manitowoc has suspended production in some of its factory namely in Europe and China and notified partners that: ”[they] may experience disruption to the supply chain which could impact our performance to you.  We will continue to work to ensure there are no disruption to our operations, but as you will appreciate we can’t guarantee this, so please be prepared for possible delays to deliveries.”.

Terex on the other hand had issued a statement regarding COVID-19 on March 18, stating that “production is still occuring but steps have been taken to ensure the safety of its team members, customers and communities. At Terex, our top priority is safety. As a global organization, we have manufacturing and support sites in many parts of the world, including some greatly impacted by coronavirus COVID-19 – China, Italy and locations in Washington State (U.S.)”

Nonetheless, the CECE survey adeed that, “as there was a solid demand for construction machinery before the crisis and many projects were shut down but not cancelled, CECE is optimistic about the possibility for the industry to recover as soon as the virus is defeated.”

The UK Scheme

The UK’s Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said today it had received government advice that construction in England can continue if it can be done safely and in accordance with Public Health England (PHE) guidance. The UK’s Construction Leadership Council (CLC) and three of the main building and construction bodies in the UK have urged that construction sites remain operational during the COVID-19 crisis. In a letter to the prime minister Boris Johnson, the Council said keeping construction working would avoid many thousands of job losses and prevent the closure of thousands of businesses and delays and cost increases on important projects: ““If construction activity comes to halt, given the scale of employment provided by our sector, there would be an immediate need for the Government to provide emergency financing to keep the construction industry operational and prevent irreversible damage to the economic security of millions of people.”

The US Scheme

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has been urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to declare construction an essential industry. With this declaration, construction projects can continue to support critical infrastructure and economic activities, in a way that protects workers and the general public from the spread of coronavirus.  Meanwhile, the AGC launched a survey on March 27th which reported that 39% of contractors had been affected by project owners holding or cancelling current construction projects amid deteriorating economic conditions.  In addition, 45% of the 1,640 respondents reported experiencing project delays or disruptions. Shortages of material, parts and equipment, including vital personal protective equipment for workers such as respirators, were reported by 23% of respondents, while 16% said projects were delayed by shortages of government workers needed for inspections, permits and other actions. A total of 13% said delay or disruption had occurred because a potentially infected person had visited a jobsite. Association officials warned these cancellations mean massive job losses are likely soon unless Congress passes targeted recovery measures to boost infrastructure funding, compensate firms for lost or delayed federally funded work and provide needed pension relief. An example of government support is the decision to expand unemployment benefits as nearly 10 million Americans have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus, and this number is expected to grow as the pandemic expands in the US.

The new coronavirus is said to be a health and an economic virus. It is a time for unity, cooperation, and solidarity. Being an evolving situation, the industry has to ensure that they are up to date on decisions by public officials in the regions where construction projects are still ongoing. As construction work continues to go on amidst the fear and panic, workers and businesses will need to be flexible in their approach. The Covid-19 pandemic will force businesses,governments and communities to adjust their existing processes, and will forever change the current construction landscape.