The World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging employers and businesses to develop a plan for what to do if someone becomes ill with suspected COVID-19 (Coronavirus) at the workplace.

Dr Yogesh Choudhri, from the WHO Solomon Islands Representative office in Honiara, says the plan should cover putting the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others in the workplace, limiting the number of people who have contact with the sick person and contacting the local health authorities.

“Consider how to identify persons who may be at risk, and support them, without inviting stigma and discrimination into your workplace,” Dr Choudhri said.

This could include persons who have recently travelled to an area where cases have been reported, or those who are older or have underlying medical conditions, like diabetes, heart and lung disease, which put them at serious risk of infection.

Businesses are also advised to seek input from the local health authority when developing their plan.

“Promote regular teleworking across your organization. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community the health authorities may advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places. Teleworking will help your business keep operating while your employees stay safe.

“Develop a contingency and business continuity plan for an outbreak in the communities where your business operates,” Dr Choudhri said.

He said having such plan will help prepare any organization for the possibility of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplaces or community and it may also be valid for other health emergencies.

“The plan should address how to keep your business running even if a significant number of employees, contractors and suppliers cannot come to your place of business - either due to local restrictions on travel or because they are ill.

“Communicate to your employees and contractors about the plan and make sure they are aware of what they need to do – or not do – under the plan. Emphasize key points such as the importance of staying away from work even if they have only mild symptoms or have had to take simple medications (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen) which may mask the symptoms,” Dr Choudhri said.

WHO also advises that any plans developed must address the mental health and social consequence of a COVID-19 in the workplace or in the community and offer information and support.

For small and medium-sized businesses without in-house staff health and welfare support, develop partnerships and plans with the local health and social service providers in advance of any emergency.

Officials from the WHO Solomon Islands Representative office together with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) hosted the first of a series of meetings with representatives of State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) and the private sector on Wednesday 4th March 2020.

They highlighted measures to prevent the spread of the virus, things to consider when travelling and getting ready for that first case.

Source: SICCI Media