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COVID-19: Government Issues Fresh Guidelines For Offices; Here’s What You Need To Know

According to the new guidelines, if there are one or two cases reported, the disinfection procedure will be limited to areas occupied and visited by the patient in past 48 hours and work can resume after disinfection

COVID-19: Government Issues Fresh Guidelines For Offices; Here’s What You Need To Know
Highlights
  • Office in containment areas to stay closed except medical services: Centre
  • COVID-19 can spread faster among officials, staff and visitors: Centre
  • Health Ministry suggests conducting meeting via video conferencing

New Delhi: The country has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through preventive measures, treatments and therapies and the ongoing massive vaccination drive. According to experts, these efforts have contributed to slowing down the transmission which has resulted in a decline in the number of positive cases. People have now started transitioning from ‘Work from home’ to reporting to their office as offices have started operating with 100 per cent capacity. Keeping this in consideration, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) issued new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for workplace on Saturday (February 13). The ministry said that offices and other workplaces are relatively close settings that have shared spaces like workstations, corridors, elevator, cafeteria, meeting rooms and other such places and COVID-19 can spread relatively fast among the people present there.

Also Read: Younger People Half As Likely As Adults To Catch COVID-19, Study Says

The guidelines issued by the central government aim to encourage offices to follow practices that can contain the spread of infection. However, the guidelines highlighted that offices in containment zones will continue to be closed except for medical and essential services.

Apart from implementing basic preventive measures like maintaining a physical distance of six feet in common places as much as possible, wearing face masks at all times and washing hands frequently, the guidelines recommend offices to allow only asymptomatic staff and visitors. It says that compulsory thermal screening and sanitisation should be ensured at the entrance of the office and each employee should self-monitor their health and report any illness at the earliest to the immediate supervisory officer.

The recommendations advise all employees who are at a higher risk like senior citizens, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, heart ailments and other such diseases to take extra precautions. They should not be exposed to any work requiring direct contact with the public, it said.

The guidelines highlight that meetings should be done through video conferencing as far as feasible and large physical gathering continue to remain prohibited. It says that proper crowd management in and outside the premise of the office should be done.

For air-conditioning and ventilation, the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24–30-degree Celsius, relative humidity should be in the range of 40- 70 per cent, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.

Also Read: Researchers Propose That Humidity From Masks May Lessen Severity Of COVID-19

Measures To Be Taken When Cases Occur In The Office

According to the standard operating procedures for workplace, if an office premise records one or two coronavirus disease cases, then the disinfection process will be only limited to the areas or spots occupied by the infected person in the last 48 hours and work can restart post disinfection. In case the workplace is witnessing a greater number of infections, the whole block or building should be disinfected. The work can resume after disinfection and there is no need to close the entire workplace. In the previous guidelines, that were issued in May 2020, if there were multiple cases of COVID-19, the entire workplace was required to be closed for 48 hours after thorough disinfection.

Steps To Be Taken If An Employee Exhibits COVID-19 Symptoms

The guidelines say that if an employee suffers symptoms similar to that of COVID-19, the office administration should undertake the following:

– Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others at the workplace. Provide a mask/face cover till such time he/she is examined by a doctor.

– Immediately inform the nearest medical facility or call the state or district helpline.

– A risk assessment will be undertaken by the designated public health authority and accordingly further advice shall be made regarding management of case, his/her contacts and need for disinfection.

According to Dr Preeti Kumar, Vice President- Public Health System Support at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), in cities, especially in government offices, almost all the employees have started reporting to their office and thus it is important to put in place mechanisms for training the staff and building habits that contribute in containing the spread. She said that even though the cases are declining, there is still a threat of the numbers increasing if people, especially those who are sharing spaces and have been successful so far, in avoiding large outbreaks.

Also Read: Coronavirus Outbreak Explained: What Is Genome Sequencing And How Can It help Combat COVID-19 Pandemic

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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