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Updated on 21 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has, as of 21 April 2020, spread to 185 nations across the world and has put billions of lives at the risk of infection and even death. India, while not one of the worst-hit nations, also has a rising death toll to deal with. As of 21 April 2020, the number of infected persons in India is above 18,000 as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The death toll in India has also crossed 600, which is a huge cause of concern.

To contain the spread of COVID-19, the Indian government imposed a 21-day lockdown on 25 March 2020, which was then extended to 3 May 2020 with some restrictions being lifted on 20 April 2020 after reevaluation of circumstances and conditions. This measure is a way of imposing social distancing, which is considered to be one of the best ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Indian citizens working in non-essential sectors are also expected to stay at home and step out only to buy essential items during this lockdown. Practicing all the preventive measures, like washing hands regularly, practising respiratory hygiene, etc is also a necessity.

With some restrictions being lifted for certain sectors of the Indian economy on 20 April 2020, state governments are coming out with clear directives about how workplaces should operate. The Maharashtra Chief Minister's Office released a document which revealed that the police, home guard, civil defence, fire and emergency services, disaster management, prisons and municipal systems will function without any restrictions. All departments of state governance will function with 10% staff. 

However, the lockdown is still in place for the general public and those who have been specifically put under quarantine by healthcare professionals. On breaking the quarantine, these people will be liable to legal action according to Section 188 of the IPC, 1860.

Read more: COVID-19 tips on maintaining hygiene and social distancing while shopping for essentials

And while these and many other steps are currently being taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 before it takes any more lives, a lockdown is not forever. A pandemic, no matter how widespread, is bound to be dealt with sooner or later on the global scale, and things are likely to go back to as normal as possible after such a public health emergency.

What is most important in this scenario is what we learn from a pandemic of this scale. Considering how COVID-19, and most other infections, is spread from human-to-human and is also transmitted through surfaces due to droplet transmission, humankind has to be prepared to prevent reinfection, relapses and another outbreak of COVID-19. Workplaces, like all other places where large groups of people spend time contained within limited space, are high-risk areas for such infections. 

This is the reason why the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as India’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have some effective and compulsory guidelines which all offices all over the world must follow to prevent another outbreak, epidemic and even a pandemic.

  1. Tips for employers to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  2. Managing COVID-19 risks for meetings, conferences and events
  3. Tips for employer/employee travel
  4. Takeaways
  5. Doctors for COVID-19 prevention steps every office must take after the lockdown
  6. Health ministry guidelines for offices during the COVID-19 pandemic

There are a number of simple, low-cost measures every employer can use to minimise the risk of infections as well as their spread. Adopting these measures now and forever can not only keep COVID-19 at bay but also considerably reduce the burden of other infectious diseases like common cold, flu and even stomach upsets by creating an environment where viral infections, bacterial infections and fungal infections cannot thrive at all. 

It’s also advisable that employers start putting these changes or dispatch employee advisories well before the re-opening of offices, so that everybody hits the ground running after the lockdown is over.

The following are the measures every employer, and by extension all employees, must take while at their workplace:

  • Make sure your workplace is clean and hygienic. This means that all surfaces and objects should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. 
  • Regular and thorough handwashing must be done by employers, employees, contractors, visitors, etc at the office. 
  • Hand sanitizers, soap, running water, etc should be provided for all. Hand sanitizers should be placed in prominent places around the office to remind people to maintain hand hygiene.
  • Good respiratory hygiene practices are a must at work. Make sure tissues, closed bins and face masks are available for all, but especially for those who have symptoms of cough and cold.
  • Refrain from unnecessary travel, nationally and internationally. If you must travel for work, check all your national guidelines and advisories for travel and comply with them precisely.
  • Make sure everybody in the organization is informed about the latest health updates and advisories.
  • Ask your employees to also focus on their health and stay at home if they have even the most minor symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, low-grade fever, etc) or any other infectious disease.

When it comes to spreading infectious diseases, be it a cold or COVID-19, it’s important to be safer than sorry. This is why it’s important for all employers to understand that meetings, conferences and events - which are normal, everyday affairs for most workplaces - also pose a huge risk for the spread of COVID-19. People attending the meetings or events might unwittingly bring the infection to your office environment, where it can quickly spread as well. 

This is the reason why the following measures must be taken by all the people hosting, attending and organising said meetings, conferences and events.

Precautions before holding a meeting or event

Before organising any meetings, conferences and events, the following measures should be taken:

  • Check with local authorities and healthcare providers if the venue of the meeting or its location is safe for the same.
  • With digital means now at everyone’s fingertips, ask yourself if a physical meeting is absolutely necessary or will a tele or video conference achieve the same ends without it.
  • If the physical meeting is absolutely necessary, limit the number of attendees to minimise the risk of infections.
  • Keep hygiene supplies like tissues, sanitizers, etc. ready for use well in advance for the event. Keep masks or face covers ready for anybody who might have respiratory difficulties during a meeting.
  • Collect the contact details, health status, address, emergency contact, etc of every attendee and organiser of the event. Inform everybody that these details will be shared with healthcare professionals in case of an emergency during the event.
  • Develop a response plan in case somebody falls sick during the event. A room where a patient can be safely isolated, a plan for their transfer to a hospital, etc should be available. 
  • In case an attendee tests positive you should have a response plan ready to get everybody else who attended the meeting to be isolated at home, checked up by medical professionals, etc.

Precautions during an event

The following measures must be taken during the meeting, conference or event planned at or by your office:

  • Provide both a written and oral briefing to all attendees about all the measures taken to prevent the risk of COVID-19 and other infections. The information should have a reassuring tone.
  • Encourage all attendees to comply with all the necessary preventive measures like regular hand washing, respiratory hygiene, etc.
  • Encourage participants to not shake hands, but greet each other verbally or with a namaste.
  • Display hand sanitizers, soap and tissue vending machines at prominent locations of the venue and make sure they’re refilled regularly.
  • Ask attendees to report any discomfort or ill-health immediately, and provide them with the emergency helpline number in case they need it as well.
  • Keep one metre distance between all seats, and ask all attendees to maintain physical distance while engaging socially and professionally.
  • Open all doors and windows to make sure the venue is properly ventilated.
  • Thank all attendees for their participation and compliance with all the preventive measures in advance.

Precautions after event

The following measures must be taken after the meeting, conference or event planned at or by your office is done:

  • Keep the contact information of all attendees at hand for at least a month. This will help healthcare professionals conduct proper contact tracing if an attendee tests positive for COVID-19 or any other infection after the event is done.
  • If someone at the event was isolated due to ill-health or symptoms of COVID-19, inform all other attendees and ask everybody to monitor themselves for symptoms, take their temperature twice a day, and take absolute care for 14 days.
  • If attendees develop any symptoms of COVID-19 or any other infection after the event, they should self-isolate and inform the organizers so that the information can be disseminated and preventive measures be taken by all.
  • Thanks all participants all over again for their compliance with all preventive measures.

Travelling for work - locally, nationally or internationally - can lead to transmission of infectious diseases, even if you’re not showing any symptoms and have a very mild infection - or come in contact with someone else who does. This is the reason why complying with travel advisories, especially during a pandemic like COVID-19, is of vital importance. 

Travel is anyways banned during any lockdown, but even when said lockdown is lifted, your workplace must make sure that all preventive measures are taken to avoid reinfections or even a second wave of COVID-19. This is the primary reason why the following precautions must be taken before, during and after you travel for work.

Before travel

The following precautions must be taken before travelling anywhere for work by all employers and employees:

  • Assess the benefits and risks of travelling to any location based on latest and accurate information about COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks.
  • Avoid imposing travel on employees who might be at a higher risk of diseases, like older employees or ones who suffer from heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
  • Make sure all personnel who are travelling are properly briefed about health risks, preventive measures, contact details for local healthcare professionals, etc.
  • Consider issuing protective and hygiene equipment for employees about to travel, like hand sanitizers, tissues, etc to promote compliance with preventive measures.

During travel

The following precautions must be taken by all travelling employees, and by their employers as well:

  • Encourage employees to maintain at least one metre distance from everyone else at all times.
  • Ensure employees wash hands regularly and maintain respiratory hygiene throughout the trip.
  • Make sure the employees know whom to contact for help in case of a medical emergency during travelling for work.
  • Ensure that employees comply with health advisories, protocols, etc of the host location’s authorities.

After travel

After the travel for work is done and the employee returns, the following steps must be taken:

  • Employees returning from an area where COVID-19 had spread or have current cases of COVID-19 should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days, and take temperature twice every day.
  • If said employees develop mild symptoms like cough, mild fever, etc. they should self-isolate at home after calling their public healthcare provider. The employee should maintain a distance from their family members, monitor health status properly and inform healthcare services if the condition worsens.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown anything it is that infectious diseases spread quickly and are difficult to contain when they do turn into a pandemic. Every workplace has the responsibility towards ensuring the physical wellbeing of its staff in these times, play their part in flattening the curve of the disease and also ensure that such a public health emergency never arises again. So, apart from taking the above-mentioned measures, all employers must keep the following things in mind and work accordingly:

  • Develop a plan to detect and contain the spread of any and all infections among your workforce, and support them if they are infected.
  • Involve employees in the plan while making sure that there’s no stigma or discrimination attached to colleagues/people who might have or are sick.
  • Keep your local health authorities in the loop if you are developing a healthcare and hygiene plan for the office. This will also give you better support from professionals who are adept at handling public health emergencies.
  • Make a stable work-from-home plan for all aspects of your business in case of another public healthcare emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping a well-oiled distance-working system ready to go will help you avoid any and all hiccups due to any emergency.
  • Develop a contingency business continuity plan for any and all emergencies, including public health emergencies.
  • Ensure communication with all employees and contractors about said plans for transparency as well as to keep everybody informed about how to function without glitches during an emergency.
  • Make sure you focus on the mental health and social wellbeing of all employees, contractors and yourself to be able to support the workplace community better.
Dr. Arun R

Dr. Arun R

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

Infectious Disease
16 Years of Experience

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Infectious Disease
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Alok Mishra

Dr. Alok Mishra

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Medicine NamePack SizePrice (Rs.)
AlzumabAlzumab Injection5760.72
AnovateANOVATE OINTMENT 20GM70.0
Pilo GoPilo GO Cream52.5
Proctosedyl BdPROCTOSEDYL BD CREAM 15GM54.6
ProctosedylPROCTOSEDYL 10GM OINTMENT 10GM49.7
RemdesivirRemdesivir Injection10500.0
Fabi FluFabi Flu 200 Tablet904.4
CoviforCovifor Injection3780.0
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References

  1. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration [Internet] U.S Department of Labour. Washington D.C. USA; Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  3. Workplace Health and Safety Electrical Safety Office Workers' Compensation Regulator [Internet] Queensland Government. Australia; Coronavirus (COVID-19) workplace risk management
  4. National Centre for Disease Control [Internet] New Delhi. India; Guidelines for Workplace of COVID-19 case
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