What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses can cause illness similar to the common cold and others can cause more serious diseases, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). On the 30 January, 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the current outbreak of a Coronavirus COVID-19, to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. It is a rapidly changing situation, and information is likely to change; please ensure refer to the relevant links provided for the most up-to-date information on the situation.
To keep up to date on COVID-19 visit:
Mitigating the risk of spread of infection within your workplace during a pandemic such as COVID-19 can be daunting. Sonic HealthPlus and Travel Doctor-TMVC Doctors can support you to prepare your staff and educate them on risk mitigation practices; and assist in the development of Pandemic Plans for your workplace.
Contact us via the web form below if you require assistance in your workplace.
Good hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette are the best methods to prevent the spread of most viruses:
1. Wash hands regularly with soap and water, including before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
2. Cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue, or into the elbow, and use alcohol based hand sanitiser
3. If unwell, avoid contact with others
The routine use of surgical masks is not recommended for members of the general public who are well. Further information on the use of surgical masks may be found here.
- Can you do a test and clear me to return to work?
- Can I send my worker to your clinic so that you can do a test and clear them to return to work?
Doctors are unable to certify patients are cleared from having COVID-19, for two reasons:
- As per government advice and guidelines, resources must be conserved for patients who are both unwell and fit strict testing criteria and this means that testing for COVID-19 outside of the strict medical criterion cannot and should not be done.
- Even if testing was available, a negative test cannot ensure that the patient is not, or will not become infective. A test may be performed during the incubation phase of infection, and the patient may become infective in the following days.
This will preserve precious healthcare resources, such as testing kits, laboratory facilities, protective equipment and health care workers.
At this time, doctors are therefore unable to:
- Provide clearance for people who have returned from overseas. These patients need to self-isolate for 14 days. Once 14 days have passed, if the person shows NO symptoms, they are fit to return to work.
- Provide clearance for well people who have had contact with unwell people (specifically, if the unwell person has NOT been formally diagnosed with COVID-19). Our advice to everyone is to self-isolate if and when they develop any symptoms of a respiratory tract infection.
- Provide testing for patients with MILD illness symptoms, with no COVID-19 close contacts or travel risk factors. These people are to take ‘sick leave’ as usual for a cold or flu, and are able to return to work once they are free of symptoms for 24 hours prior to returning to work.
I would implore and recommend that you consider the need for requesting Medical Clearance/ Certificates during this time as it leads to well people presenting to GP Practices and stretching our essential health care service.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home to prevent it spreading to other people. You might also be asked to stay at home if you may have been exposed to the virus.
Staying at home means you:
- do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
- ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
- do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
- You should stay in touch by phone and on-line with your family and friends.
For more information read the home isolation guidance document on the Department of Health website here.
Quarantine is another term used for isolation in returned travellers, where they are unwell but serving out time to avoid risk to others in the community. Currently the term isolation is being used by the government in the information provided to returning travellers. Read the returning travellers information here.
Social distancing is the act of limiting contact with others in order to limit or stop the spread of infectious diseases. In encompasses many things and employers and employees all have an obligation to do their utmost to limit the spread of disease in the current environment.
- For an individual it is staying at home as much as possible – this includes working from home where you have the capabilities to.
- When out in public try to stay at least 1.5m from others where possible and avoiding anyone who is unwell by at least this distance.
- Avoid non-essential commitments.
For the population it is more preventing incoming people from high risk areas, travellers having to quarantine for 2 weeks, reducing access to high risk places – nursing homes, etc. Protecting those at increased risk. This will likely progress to reducing sizes of gatherings. Measures such as closures of restaurants, shops and schools that have occurred in countries further along in the pandemic are also ways of social distancing.
For some business and essential services you will be unable to work from home. Below are recommendations from the Department of Health in maintaining social distancing within the workplace.
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Stop handshaking as a greeting.
- Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call.
- Enable any and/or all employees to work from home.
- Make changes to how your business operates to be flexible for those staff who are high risk, such as immunosuppressed, to decrease their risk of exposure.
- Ensure all employees have adequate access to hand washing facilitates.
- Promote good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and provide hand sanitisers and tissues for all staff and workers.
For contractors visiting homes:
- Call ahead of jobs to ensure that no one is sick or unwell.
- Ask for access to hand washing facilities; and where possible, for surfaces to be worked in, disinfected prior to arrival.
- Ask that the home/site is adequately ventilated and that household social distancing practices are maintained on your arrival.
For location based workers:
- Take lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunch room.
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly.
- Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more ventilation.
- Limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace.
- Reconsider non-essential business travel
- Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts
- Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled
Find the comprehensive Department of Health guidelines on social distancing here.