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This Is Your Best Protection Against COVID-19 At Work, Says World Health Organization
PHOTO BY Dimitri Karastelev/Unsplash
  • As of this writing, 20 people in the Philippines are now confirmed to have COVID-19. And at least six local government units have already suspended classes to contain any further spread of the disease. Manila is the latest to suspend classes — Mayor Isko Moreno has declared #walangpasok for all levels, public and private, until March 15.

    Over the weekend, news that one of the COVID-19 patients came from consulting company Deloitte Philippines raised alarms about how prepared are workplaces to handle the outbreak.

    Since January 2020, preparedness and response readiness have been the focus of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been reaching out to affected countries that face more challenges in their health systems. As of this writing, the Philippines still has one of the lowest numbers of confirmed cases around the world. But it doesn’t mean we have to be complacent in managing and containing the virus from spreading, especially in the workplace.

    Apart from public spaces and the home, the WHO recognizes that the workplace is a potential environment wherein the virus can quickly spread, prompting them to release a statement on February 27: “All sections of our society – including businesses and employers – must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease.”

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    How your company needs to handle COVID-19

    WHO recently had Dr. Rosamund Lewis as a guest in a live Facebook video that focused on what employers can do to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace. Dr. Lewis, currently the head of the Smallpox Secretariat at WHO, is also a public health doctor and part of the WHO Health Information Network. Here, she gives advice on how businesses and organizations can be one step ahead in their response to COVID-19.


    Your company understands how COVID-19 spreads

    Coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19 is a disease (the virus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2) that causes respiratory infections like influenza. Symptoms, coughing, fever, colds, and difficulty breathing. It’s spread from person to person caused by the droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes.

    “It does not travel long distances, but it is important to keep a distance about a meter or 3-4 feet away from the person coughing or sneezing,” says Dr. Lewis.

    The virus can also stay on a surface for as long as nine days.

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    Handwashing is the no. 1 protection at the workplace

    Dr. Lewis says that handwashing is the number 1 action people can do to keep the virus from spreading in a workplace. A person may use soap and water, hand sanitizers, and alcohol-based rubs that must be applied before eating and before or after touching door handles, elevator buttons, and other things that are touched frequently by people.

    Equally important is not to touch the face after placing a hand on the surfaces mentioned, warns Lewis. “We don’t realize how often we touch our faces, nose, mouth, eyes, and so it’s important to try to remember to control that impulse.”

    Your company should be spreading awareness about COVID-19 in your workplace

    Employers should be aware of the employees who are most vulnerable to the virus in the workplace. COVID-19 is a virus that can infect almost anyone, says Dr. Lewis, at the same time, assuring the public that most people who acquire the infection have a very mild illness. However, it can be severe in older people, she warns.

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    Dr. Lewis recommends increasing awareness about COVID-19, what it is, how it’s spread, who can be infected, how to prevent its spread, among other relevant information through different channels available to a company. This may include hanging posters in critical areas, sending it out via email or the company newsletter, or on official social media accounts.

    Lewis says that organizing a talk conducted by an occupational health safety expert or the company’s own health services staff can be helpful.

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    Your employer should be able to asses risk at the office

    Every workplace has different setups and dynamics that determine its layout, traffic, and contact with colleagues and clients. Employers need to manage the risk of infection, depending on the nature of their daily activities and transactions. “Know what your offices are like. Are there closed spaces? Are there cubicles? Manage the risk accordingly by informing your staff and your clients of these simple measures that will protect them.

    Your company should have a business continuity plan in place

    Once risks are assessed, it is crucial to have a business continuity plan in place if a COVID-19 infection arrives in your community, advises Dr. Lewis.

    “You may have to maximize the number of people staying [and working] from home or those who can and can’t travel in and out of location. You should have policies in place [and know] which and when employees should do things like telework [remote work]. Also, do people need to be in at the same time?”


    For all our articles on COVID-19, click here.

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