Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, is advising that businesses will not need to close their doors to facilitate deep-cleaning activities, in the event of suspected exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19), if the infection prevention and control protocols for the workplace are followed.
“Organisations need to put in place daily cleaning protocols that are sufficient to kill any virus particles that may remain on surfaces where droplets may fall. Frequently used surfaces may need to be…cleaned several times during the day. Depending on what your business is, then you may find that the intervals may vary. If infection prevention and control measures are adhered to in daily operations, then there is no need to close offices or other workplaces,” she said.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie, who was addressing a digital press conference hosted by the Ministry of Health & Wellness, on Thursday (September 17), noted that this advice comes as the Ministry has now revised the recommendations for infection prevention and control measures in the workplace
“The cleaning regime for infection prevention and control has been updated in the new protocols to reflect when a more rigorous routine cleaning protocol is required,” she said.
The CMO noted that the new protocols will serve to guide employers and employees in light of community transmission of COVID-19, as the workplace is recognised as a setting in which COVID-19 can spread quickly if employees and employers do not adhere to these measures.
“With community transmission, it is likely that you will be at work with COVID-19 positive persons who have no symptoms and will not know that they are positive. Wearing a mask, physical distancing, hand sanitising and infection control measures in the workplace, such as daily cleaning and frequent wiping of frequently used surfaces will be sufficient to prevent exposure,” she advised.
The CMO said that if someone in the workplace is observed to be ill and has a fever or respiratory symptoms, then that person should be given a mask immediately and sent home. The area the person occupied should be wiped with a mild bleach solution or with disinfectant or alcohol. Once this is done and the area is dry, then that area is safe to be used.
“Remember that the virus is easily killed by the appropriate agents. It is cleaned by using soap and water to wash hands and to clean surfaces; it is killed by using disinfectant; it is killed by using mild bleach solution; and by using alcohol to clean,” she said.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie further advised that if persons who were in contact with the person who was symptomatic have been adhering to their infection prevention and control measures, then there is no need for those persons to go home, and they are allowed to go to work.
“However, they must obey the instructions and advice that have been offered from the workplace to say that they must adhere to all infection prevention and control measures and if they start to feel ill, they must stay home and report that they are ill,” she said.
The CMO emphasised that it is very important that management teams are engaged in knowing what they have to do to inform their workers and must play an important part in advising workers about COVID-19.
“Workers are to be advised that if they develop a fever or they’re not feeling well, then they should call in and stay home. Workplaces must make those allowances to prevent the possibility of somebody who is symptomatic coming to work,” she said.
She added that if persons are not feeling better after a few days at home, then they should seek medical advice and that may include doing a test. If they have done a test, and the test is positive they will be required to stay at home for a minimum of 14 days, including three symptom-free days after symptoms are resolved.
“These measures will slow down transmission and prevent overwhelming of our hospitals. Protect the vulnerable in the population by adhering to these measures while at home or in the same space as elderly or sick persons,” she urged, noting that most persons who have COVID-19 or who have chronic diseases that make them vulnerable will not look sick, so it is very important that persons stick to precautions at all times.
In the meantime, Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. the Hon Christopher Tufton, said the workplace protocols are intended to guide the working environment, both the employer and employee, “to adjust to the realities of COVID – that it could be anywhere and everywhere; that it is likely to be always present, at least for now, and so we must conform to a set of protocols or behaviours that will prevent an infection or reduce the possibility of spread of an infection.”
“The community transmission is a phase that requires an all-of-society approach more than any other phase. Everyone has to play their part. In the context of a work environment, every employee and employer (in) their workspace has to comply with the rules of engagement, assuming that if the virus is present, it is confined to that individual and not going to be spreading across the board,” he said.
The Minister noted that the revised workplace protocols are not only influenced by the Ministry of Health & Wellness, but are guided by international standards which have evolved over time as the study and research around COVID-19 continues.