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Coronavirus – Update & Advice for employees

Coronavirus background

A coronavirus is a type of virus and as a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China in January 2020.
Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.

The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2 to 14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, they have not been infected.

COVID-19 Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms are:

  • Fever / high temperature
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you are worried, develop symptoms or have been in contact with a person known to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days or if you have been in or travelled from an area with the ongoing spread of the virus, seek medical advice by telephoning NHS 111 service that has an online coronavirus service and tell them about your symptoms and travel history, they can tell you if you need medical help and advise you on what to do.

How COVID-19 is spread?

The spread of COVID-19 is most likely to happen when there is close contact (within 2 metres or less) with an infected person. It is likely that the risk increases the longer someone has close contact with an infected person.

Respiratory secretions produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales containing the virus are most likely to be the main means of transmission.

There are 2 main routes by which people can spread COVID-19 – it spreads in a similar way to seasonal flu:

  • infection can be spread to people who are nearby (within 2 metres) or possibly could be inhaled into the lungs.
  • it is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching door knob or shaking hands then touching own face).

There is currently little evidence that people who are without symptoms are infectious to others.

Recommendations to prevent the spread of infection.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Public Health England (PHE) recommends that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:

Wash your hands frequently

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub even if your hands are not visibly dirty. All staff are to be issued with 100ml alcohol based hand rub.
  • Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub eliminates the virus if it is on your hands.

Practice respiratory hygiene

  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Why? Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevent the spread of germs and viruses. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate objects or people that you touch.

Maintain social distancing

  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
  • Why? When someone who is infected with a respiratory disease, like the Coronavirus, coughs or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.

Facemasks

The wearing of face masks (also known as surgical masks or respirators) is not recommended to protect against the virus. Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by symptomatic individuals (advised by a healthcare worker) to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.

Public Health England recommends that the best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Employee sickness COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, Self-certification & Pay

Employee sickness

Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness will be actively encouraged to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees are to notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.

Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day will be separated from other employees and be sent home.

Self-certification – Certifying absence from work

If after contacting NHS 111 or following advice from Public Health England you are advised to self-isolate and not to work in contact with other people because you may be a carrier or have been in contact with an infectious or contagious disease, you must notify your employer and self-certify for the first 7 days. After 7 days we will use our discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to self-isolate due to suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice.

Pay / SSP

If an employee on advice from NHS 111 or from Public Health England self-isolates or is sent home by a manager as a precaution due to COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, the employee is following a reasonable instruction from the employer and will be paid their normal pay.

Travel

Future travel plans.

Employees are required to consult the government advice at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice prior to holiday travel. Employees are not to put themselves unnecessarily at risk by travelling to locations that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are advising against travel to.

Returning from travel overseas to affected areas

Employees who have returned from Hubei Province, including Wuhan, in the last 14 days are not to return to work. They are to call NHS 111 for advice and are to self-isolate.

Employees are to check the advice in the following link for: what to do if you have returned in the last 14 days from specified countries or areas these specified countries and areas are being updated on an ongoing basis.

Employees returning from travel anywhere else in the world within the last 14 days

Currently, there are minimal cases outside the listed areas and therefore the likelihood of an individual coming into contact with a confirmed case is extremely low. Employees should return to work unless they have been informed that they have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. If you develop a fever or symptoms of respiratory illness within 14 days of travel or have been in close contact with someone showing symptoms you are to remain at home and seek advice through the NHS 111 helpline.

The latest country information is available on the NaTHNac Travel Pro website.

Employer actions for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19:

If a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in the workplace:

For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures will be required or taken while laboratory test results for COVID19 are awaited. In particular, the workplace will not be closed and other employees will not be sent home. This is because most possible cases turn out to be negative. Therefore, until the outcome of test results is known there is no action that the workplace needs to take.

If there is a case of an employee or other person with confirmed COVID-19 having been in the workplace:

In accordance with the recommendations of Public Health England the workplace will not be closed. The management team will be contacted by the Public Health England Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.

A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken by the Health Protection Team with the lead responsible person. Advice on the management of staff and members of the public will be based on this assessment.

The Health Protection Team will also be in contact with the case directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will be in touch with any contacts of the case to provide them with appropriate advice.

Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will be given by the Health Protection Team.

When individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19:

If a confirmed case is identified in the workplace, the local Health Protection Team will provide the relevant staff with advice.

Employer pro-active preventative measures:

Even though COVID-19 has not been confirmed in the locations we work, we are now implementing the following to reduce the risks:

All Staff & Cleaning Contractor –are to be especially vigilant in ensuring that our offices and vehicles are clean and hygienic: Surfaces, (e.g. desks and tables,) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards, handles, steering wheels) are to be wiped with disinfectant regularly as contamination on surfaces touched by employees is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads.

Offices & sites: Managers and Site Foremen are to promote regular and thorough handwashing by employees and contractors. Posters are to be displayed promoting regular and thorough handwashing. Tissues and Sanitizing hand rub dispensers are to be provided in prominent places and arrangements made to ensure that dispensers are regularly refilled or replaced

This guidance will be subject to regular review and change and in accordance with Government advice.

For further information or advice please contact Mick Yeomans HSE Advisor 07968 363324


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