Offices needn’t be shut after a few cases: Govt
The government said the entire office building need not be closed if one or two cases of Covid-19 are reported and work can resume after it is disinfected as per protocol.Updated: May 29, 2020 10:58 IST
The Union health ministry on Monday issued guidelines on preventive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at workplace, recommending distancing norms and rules on reporting of infections and sanitisation among other things.
The government said the entire office building need not be closed if one or two cases of Covid-19 are reported and work can resume after it is disinfected as per protocol. However, if there is a larger outbreak, the entire building will have to be closed for 48 hours. All staff will work from home till the building is adequately disinfected and is declared fit for re-occupation, the guidelines said.
“Offices and other workplaces are relatively close setting, with shared spaces like (corridors, elevators, stairs, parking places, cafeteria, meeting rooms and conference halls etc.) and thus Covid-19 infection can spread relatively fast among officials, staffs and visitors. There is a need to prevent importation of infection in workplace settings and to respond in a timely and effective manner in case suspect case of COVID-19 is detected in these settings, so as to limit the spread of infection,” the government said.
The guidelines focus on some key aspects: basic preventive measures to be followed at all times; office-specific measures; measures to be taken on occurrence of a case; and disinfection of the office premises. Here are details from the guideline:
The measures that are to be followed at all times include maintaining a physical distance of at least one metre between colleagues; use of face covers or masks; frequent hand-washing; following respiratory etiquette such as covering mouth and nose while coughing, sneezing with a tissue, handkerchief, flexed elbow, and disposing of used tissues properly. It is important to self-monitor one’s health, and reporting any illness at the earliest.
There should be thermal scanners installed at the entry of the office building, along with mandatory placing of hand sanitisers. As far as possible, the entry of visitors in the office complex should be discouraged. Meetings, as far as feasible, should be done through video-conferencing, and exchange of files and other documents should only be done on mail. Gyms, recreation centres or creches located within the building should be closed. The office should be cleaned and frequently sanitised, particularly frequently touched surfaces.
“Any staff reportedly suffering from flu-like illness should not attend office and seek medical advice from local health authorities, … if diagnosed… should immediately inform the office authorities,” the guidelines said.
On reporting of a positive case
The guidelines said the people who are ill should be placed in a room or an area where they are isolated from others at the workplace. They should be provided a mask or a face cover till they are examined by a doctor. They should then by reported to local health authorities, or on a phone call to helpline 1075. “A risk assessment will be undertaken by the designated public health authority and accordingly further advice shall be made regarding management of case, their contacts and need for disinfection.”
Management of contacts
The high-risk exposure contacts will have to be quarantined for 14 days, and low-risk exposure contacts can continue to work and should closely monitor their health over the next two weeks.
Closure of workplace
If there are one or two cases reported, the disinfection procedure will be limited to places or areas visited by the patient in past 48 hours. “There is no need to close the entire office building or halt work in other areas of the office and work can be resumed after disinfection as per laid down protocol.”
If there is a larger outbreak, however, the entire building will have to be closed for 48 hours after disinfection. “All the staff will work from home, till the building is adequately disinfected and is declared fit for re-occupation.”
Experts said there was no need to seal entire buildings in the case of low numbers of infections. “If the structure is where there are multiple flats or different floors, then there is no need to seal the entire building as per the infection control guidelines. However, all the flats or floor have to remain under observation, and people should watch out for symptoms,” said Dr T Jacob John, senior virologist, former head of department, Christian Medical College, Vellore.