Sunday 5 July, 2020

'New normal': MoH releases reopening guidelines for businesses

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The Ministry of Health has released guidelines for the reopening of businesses, facilities and institutions after the lifting of restrictions post COVID-19.

The guidelines are outlined in a 19-page document, signed by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram.

The Ministry of Health said it has taken the approach to institute these guidelines based on scientific evidence, lessons from other countries, economic factors, security-related factors, human rights, food security and public feeling and adherence to measures.

It said the guidelines are aimed at adjusting public health and social measures while managing the risk of resurgence of cases in businesses, facilities, institutions in reopening after the lifting of restrictions implemented in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Ministry noted that the guidelines directly apply, in its first iteration, all businesses, facilities, institutions, (private and non-private sectors), across Trinidad and Tobago including but not limited to groceries and supermarkets; stores, churches, banks, homes for the aged, offices, schools, public and state sector agencies.

It said employers must promote social distancing practices for employees and control customer flow; frequent and adequate employee handwashing, facilities and surface sanitation; and ensure sick employees stay home or go home if they feel ill.

Employers, the Ministry said must also provide basic workplace hazard education about coronavirus and how to prevent transmission in the language best understood by the employee.

The following are the guidelines for specific areas:

1. Physical / Social Distancing

All persons must keep at least six feet away from each other (co-worker and member of the public). This should include:-

• Setting work stations further apart or reducing the number of work stations in use at a given time

• Moving certain tasks or meeting to times or locations with fewer people present

• Controlling the number of persons entering the building or office

• Staggering work schedules so workers don't crowd when they arrive or leave work

• Make provisions to prevent close contact between workers and others (e.g., co-workers and the public) when transferring items, tools, or materials. For example, require one at-a-time access at designated drop-off/pick-up points

• Ensure physical separation between customers by using dividers / barriers or floors markings to distinguish appropriate spacing for people waiting in lines or in front of service counters

• Establishments with lanes and aisles should implement a one way system with fewer sale specialists

• Limit capacity in elevators to accommodate social distancing depending on the size of the elevator car

• Implement curb-side pickup, delivery or use of mail services where appropriate

• Use one or more employee(s) as a “physical distance monitor” similar to a safety monitor to ensure social distancing practices are consistently followed

Break areas and meeting rooms

• Stagger break and lunch schedules to minimize occupancy; or limit and monitor occupancy based on the size and layout of the room

• Hold gatherings in larger spaces or outdoors where workers can readily spread out

• Set up rooms to facilitate appropriate distancing; for example, provide a limited number of chairs at appropriate distance apart;

• Utilise virtual meetings and other communication methods instead of in-person meetings where feasible

2. Sanitisation

Frequent cleanings throughout the day, and not just at the end of the day should be done.

• Establish a housekeeping schedule to incorporate routine cleaning with regular, frequent, and periodic cleaning during the day / night

• Provide appropriate and adequate cleaning supplies for scheduled and, when necessary, spot cleaning and cleaning after a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case

• Ensure floors, counters, and other surfaces are regularly cleaned with water and soap, or other cleaning liquids to prevent build-up of dirt and residues that can harbour contamination

• Ensure high-touch surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, handles, rails, telephone, desks, countertops) and shared spaces (lunch rooms, washrooms, change rooms, locker rooms) are properly disinfected on a frequent or periodic basis using a bleach solution using 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water or 70% alcohol solutions or other EPA-approved disinfectant

• Ensure shared work vehicles are regularly cleaned and disinfected

• Ensure that that contracted service providers are competent to clean and that they have arrangements in place regarding their workers’ health status

• Ensure employees follow effective cleaning procedures and use protective gloves and eye/face protection (e.g. face shields and/or goggles) when mixing, spraying, and wiping with liquid cleaning products, like diluted bleach

3. Personnel Hygiene

• Provide adequate fixed or portable hand washing facilities or stations at workplaces and jobsites so employees and the general public / visitors / customers can wash their hands frequently with soap and hot and cold (or tepid) running water. Ideal to have easy open-close taps or pedal actuated or hands free taps

• Endorse and encourage proper mask etiquette within the establishment

• Ensure an adequate supply of soap, water, and disposable towels; set up a schedule for frequent restocking of supplies and emptying of trash

• Require workers to wash hands frequently and effectively when they arrive at work, leave their workstations for breaks, use the bathroom; before and after they eat or drink or use tobacco products; and after touching any surfaces suspected of being contaminated

• Provide supplemental hand sanitizer (minimum content of 60% alcohol) stations, wipes or towelettes, or clean water and soap in portable containers to facilitate more frequent handwashing after handling objects touched by others;

• PPE may be provided but also must be washed regularly to prevent the spread of the virus

4. Procedures to address sick persons

Employers must establish procedures to:

• Facilitate ill workers to stay home and seek medical attention if required

• After the ill person has vacate the establishment, ensure immediate and proper cleaning and sanitisation of the area

• Conduct daily COVID-19 symptoms checks of employees, contractors, suppliers, customers and visitors entering the worksite; for example, use a brief questionnaire or thermal scanning; and

• Encourage workers to report concerns and use paid sick leave, using the guidance of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development

5. The use of masks and PPE

The Ministry noted that WHO has issued specific guidelines advising on the proper use of masks and other PPE,which include but not limited to the following:

• Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water

• Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask

• Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water

• Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks; and

• To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water

Guidelines for Specialised Establishments

WHO Operational Considerations for COVID-19 Management in the Accommodation Sector (Hotel and Tourism)

This document details information in the following areas for the accommodation / tourism sector:-

a. Guidelines for the Management Team

b. Reception & Concierge

c. Technical & Maintenance Services

d. Restaurants, Breakfast and Dining Rooms and Bars

e. Recreational Areas for Children

f. Cleaning & Housekeeping; and

g. Handling COVID-19 cases in hotels and tourism accommodation establishments

These guidelines can be accessed by using the web link below:

CDC guidelines on manufacturing workers and employers

As of May 14, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Interim Guidance for manufacturing workers and employers.

The manufacturing work environment entails the production of items through assembly lines and other areas, whereworkers have close contact with co-workers and supervisors and this may contribute substantially to workers’ potential exposures.

The risk of occupational transmission of COVID-19 on several factors include; distance between workers, duration of contact, type of contact and the ergonomics within the workplace.

Therefore, recommendations for controls should be instituted for engineering, facilities and administration within the working environment.

The details of these guidelines can be accessed through thefollowing link:

Monitoring and evaluation

The Ministry of Health noted that monitoring and evaluation will take place to ensure businesses, institutions and facilities follow the guidelines.

"The CMOHs and the Public Health Inspectorate will provide continuous assessment and reporting to the Chief Medical officer on the implementation of these guidelines through continuous site visits and inspection of premises to ensure strict adherence to the guidelines for the reopening of businesses, institutions and facilities as it is a critical intervention in the mitigating the risk of the transmission of COVID-19."

The full document can be downloaded from the Ministry of Communications website.


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