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February 29, 2020

Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19: WHO issues advisory

Islamabad

February 29, 2020

Islamabad : Urging all sections of society to play a role in containment of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued an advisory listing low-cost measures that can help prevent the spread of infections at the workplace.

When a person having COVID-19 coughs or exhales, they release droplets of infected fluid, which fall on nearby surfaces and objects such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19, they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them.

In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way as flu. Most infected persons experience mild symptoms and recover; only some get seriously ill and may need hospitalization. People over 40 years of age, those with weakened immune systems, and with conditions such as diabetes and heart and lung diseases are more vulnerable to serious illness.

The advisory recommends adherence to the following tips by employers, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate.

Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic. Surfaces (e.g., desks and tables) and objects (e.g., telephones, keyboards) need to be regularly wiped with a disinfectant.

Promote regular and thorough hand-washing with soap and water because washing kills the virus on hands and prevents the spread of COVID-19. Put sanitizing handrub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace.

Display posters promoting hand-washing–these can be downloaded from www.WHO.int.

Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.

Ensure that facemasks and/or paper tissues are available for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienic disposal of used tissues.

Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.

If COVID-19 starts spreading in your community, anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever needs to stay at home. They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to take simple medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection.

Keep promoting the message that people need to stay at home even if they have just mild symptoms of COVID-19; and that employees will be able to count this time off as sick leave.

The advisory also calls upon employers to have latest information on areas where COVID-19 is spreading, and to assess the benefits and risks related to any travel plans. Those who have returned from an affected area should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and check their body temperature twice a day. If they develop even a mild cough or lowgrade fever, they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (one meter or nearer) with other people, including family members.