As the Coronavirus situation continues to escalate, it is now becoming more and more likely that this has the potential to have a significant commercial impact on many businesses. With ongoing updates from Public Health England (PHE) and with more areas becoming affected, we have now updated our guidance. The below guidance should be reviewed and information can be used to support you with preparing a Coronavirus plan for your own operation.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) is a type of virus. This can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Novel coronavirus, COVID-19 is a new strain which previously has not been found in humans.
Most coronaviruses spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do: through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things such as hand contact points that infected people have previously touched.
COVID -19 has an incubation period of 2-14 days, meaning that if someone has come into contact with someone who has the virus and remains well 14 days after, they have not been infected.
What Areas have been affected?
As of 27th February a number of countries/ areas have been classified as category 1 areas, these include; Wuhan City and Hubei Province (China), Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (South Korea) and any Italian towns under containment measures.
The following countries / areas have been classified as category 2; Cambodia, China (non-category 1 areas), Hong Kong, Northern Italy (non-category 1 areas), Japan, Laos, Macao. Malaysia, Myanmar, South Korea (non-category 1 areas), Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. These areas and categories will continue to be reviewed.
To date there have been a number of confirmed cases in the UK, however, levels within the UK are still low to moderate and Public Health England has stated the risk to individuals has not changed.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
The typical symptoms are flu-like and include:
• Shortness in breath and breathing difficulties
The symptoms of coronavirus can be more severe in people with weakened immune symptoms.
How is Coronavirus spread?
It is often spread person to person by being in close contact with someone with coronavirus. This is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. It’s currently unclear if a person can get coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. It is important to note that the ease with which a virus spreads person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious while other viruses are less so. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with coronavirus and investigations are still ongoing.
How long can the virus survive?
The length of time any respiratory virus depends on various factors. These include but are not limited to:
• Environment (temperature and humidity differences)
• The surface the virus is on
• If it exposed to sunlight
• If it has been exposed to cleaning products.
In most situations, the quantity of the infectious virus on a contaminated surface is likely to have significantly decreased by 72 hours.
So the key question, what should we do?
With the situation continuing to escalate CSC are now recommending that businesses prepare a Coronavirus management policy. The policy should be specific to your business and cover the following:
• Preventative measures to contain viruses spreading.
• What to do if an employee or person(s)* onsite develops flu like symptoms?
• What to do if an employee or other person(s)* onsite has recently visited a category 1 or category 2 affected area?
• What to do if an employee or person(s)* onsite or has recently been onsite has a confirmed case.
• Incident recording form.
• Staff training record log.
*Person(s), could include guest, member, contractor or general visitor.
It is also recommended that businesses with a food operation also start to prepare a contingency plan for food purchasing. There is potential that distribution routes could close down – especially from abroad.
Below we look at each of these areas, and provide advice to support you with preparing your Coronavirus management policy.
Preventative measures to contain viruses spreading:
The following list provides recommended control measures to prevent the spread of viruses.
• Provision of alcohol gel dispensers (hand sanitisers of at least 60% alcohol). These should be located throughout the site and accessible to all employees and person(s) onsite.
• Regular sanitising of hand contact points e.g door handles, telephones, handrails, keyboards. These should be undertaken with a virucide sanitiser. (Advised to discuss suitable option with your chemical supplier)
• Display hand washing posters throughout, to increase visibility and profile on the importance of good hand washing. These can be obtained from the below food standards agency link (https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/handwashing.pdf)
• Individual staff to be issued with personal hand gel dispensers. These dispensers should be able to be attached to the individual; Use of the gel should be encouraged.
• Staff should be reminded to reduce “hand to mouth contact”.
• When coughing, sneezing or wiping the nose, paper tissues should be used and disposed of immediately after use. This should be followed by washing hands; gel dispensers can be used. To help increase awareness and good practice it is recommended to display Catch it, Bin it, Kill it posters.
• Boxes of paper tissues should be placed strategically around the building.
• Tissue bins should be placed strategically around the building, these must be lidded bins and foot pedal operated so no hand contact is required with the lid. The tissue bins must be emptied regularly, but with care so that air is not forced over the member of staff removing the bag.
• Management and third parties should avoid shaking hands with each other or standing to close when talking or interacting.
What to do if an employee or person(s)* onsite develops flu like symptoms?
If an individual develops flu like symptoms then they should self-isolate and contact NHS 111 for further advice. A room, which is at least 2 meters away from other people should be identified to self-isolate. If in a hotel environment then this should be their bedroom (if available). If the room has air-conditioning this should be turned off and the windows opened.
The individual should avoid touching, people, objects and surfaces. They are advised to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing with a disposable tissue. The tissue should then be placed in a small bag and disposed of in a bin. If tissues are not available, they should cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
If required a separate bathroom should be made available whilst they are waiting for advice.
Any room and/or bathroom used for self-isolation must be sanitised or fumigated after use. The room must not be used or entered by employees or person(s) onsite until this has taken place.
When making contact with NHS 111 they will risk assess the individual and advise if a period of self-isolation is required. To note – Advice could potentially be for the individual to self-isolate for 14 days.
What to do if an employee or other person(s) onsite has recently visited a category 1 or category 2 affected area?
Employee or person(s) onsite has visited a specified category 1 area in the last 14 days.
Whether an individual is unwell or not any individual who has visited a category 1 area must self-isolate, avoid contact with other people for 14 days and call NHS 111. This means any employee who has travelled to a category 1 area will not be able to return to work during this period. Should it be a live-in member of staff then they must self-isolate within their accommodation.
Employees should be made aware of the category 1 areas and if they are returning from leave or taking leave then details on any travel plans should be requested and assessed.
Should you become aware of any person(s) arriving onsite that have travelled to a category 1 area within the last 14 days then they must self-isolate. It would be recommended that person(s) are asked if they have travelled to a category 1 area in the last 14 days upon booking accommodation or checking in onsite. If they have then they should not be allowed onsite and be advised to self-isolate and to call NHS 111.
If a category 2 area has been visited and the individual is feeling well then they do not need to avoid contact with other people. Should they become unwell then they must self-isolate and call NHS 111 immediately.
What to do if an employee or person(s)* onsite or has recently been onsite has a confirmed case.
If someone who has contracted COVID -19 has recently been in your workplace the current advice given is to not close the workplace.
Management will be contacted by the local PHE health protection team to discuss the incident, to identify people who have been in contact with them and will advise on any control measures that will need to be implemented.
Incident Recording Form.
As part of your Coronavirus policy an incident reporting form should be available. This should include details of any reported flu like illnesses of employees or person(s) onsite and information recorded on any individual who has travelled to a category 1 or category 2 affected area. Details of actions taken should also be recorded.
Businesses with a food operation.
As advised above it is now recommended that businesses with a food operation also start to prepare a contingency plan for food purchasing. There is potential that distribution routes could close down – especially from abroad. For e.g. a review of menus can be undertaken so purchasing requirements remove the need for international distribution. At this point it is recommended that discussions with suppliers on contingency plans should be undertaken.
Once a Coronavirus policy has been developed for your business, then it is important that this is communicated to all management and staff through onsite training. This should be recorded and logged accordingly.
The guidance provided above will assist you and your business with creating a tailored Coronavirus policy. This proactive approach is now strongly recommended.
Should you require further information or support with developing your business plan then please do contact the CSC team who will be happy to assist.
NOTE: If staff or a guest feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have travelled to China or were in close contact with someone with Coronavirus in the 14 days before they began to feel sick, seek medical care. Before going to a doctor’s or A&E, call ahead and tell them about recent travel and symptoms.
For further support, advice or questions contact CSC on 01761 235604 or email us.