Coronavirus - the key advice from Government that all members should read
11th Mar 2020 / By Alistair Driver
Coronavirus is currently on everybody’s mind and, while it is very much business as usual as far farming is concerned, it is important that members familiarise themselves with the current advice from Government.
For farmers, among the big questions are what you should do if a member of staff suspects they might have the COVID-19 or if staff are confirmed with the COVID-19 virus.
Comprehensive guidance on this and more for businesses and employers has been produced in this document – NPA chief executive Zoe Davies is urging all members to read it!
Some of the key information and guidance includes:
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.
Signs and symptoms
The following symptoms may develop in the 14 days after exposure to someone who has COVID-19 infection:
- difficulty in breathing
Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
How COVID-19 is spread
From what we know about other coronaviruses, 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 or sneezes containing the virus are most likely to be the main means of transmission.
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:
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it
- put used tissues in the bin straight away
- wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. See hand washing guidance
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
If you are worried about symptoms, please call NHS 111. Do not go directly to your GP or other healthcare environment.
How long the virus can survive
How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors, for example:
- what surface the virus is on
- whether it is exposed to sunlight
- differences in temperature and humidity
- exposure to cleaning products
Under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 72 hours.
Employees are not recommended to wear facemasks 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.
PHE 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.
What to do if an employee or a member of the public becomes unwell and believe they have been exposed to COVID-19
If the person has not been to specified areas in the last 14 days, then normal practice should continue.
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and has travelled to China or other affected countries, the unwell person should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.
The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 from their mobile, or 999 if an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) and explain which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and outline their current symptoms.
Whilst they wait for advice from NHS 111 or an ambulance to arrive, they should remain at least 2 metres from other people. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available.
What to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for COVID19 are awaited. In particular, there is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point.
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.
What to do if a member of staff or the public with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
If a member of staff or the public with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace, closure of the workplace is not recommended.
You will be contacted by the PHE local 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 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 your workplace, the local Health Protection Team will provide the relevant staff with advice. These staff include:
- any employee in close face-to-face or touching contact
- talking with or being coughed on for any length of time while the employee was symptomatic
- anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids
- close friendship groups or workgroups
- any employee living in the same household as a confirmed case.
Contacts are not considered cases and if they are well they are very unlikely to have spread the infection to others.
Those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case and follow the home isolation advice sheet.
- They will be actively followed up by the Health Protection Team
- If they develop new symptoms or their existing symptoms worsen within their 14-day observation period they should call NHS 111 for reassessment
- If they become unwell with cough, fever or shortness of breath they will be tested for COVID-19
- If they are unwell at any time within their 14-day observation period and they test positive for COVID-19 they will become a confirmed case and will be treated for the infection
- Staff who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case do not need to take any precautions and can continue to attend work.
Staff who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case do not need to take any precautions and can continue to attend work.
Zoe added: “So if anyone is worried that they might end up with no staff, it is absolutely critical that they follow the limit risk advice!”
The above represents some of the key advice from the Government. We recommend also reading the full document, which can be accessed here