Centre issues fresh guidelines to contain COVID-19 spread in offices

PTI, Feb 15, 2021, 9:40 AM IST

New Delhi: The Union health ministry has issued new ”SOPs to contain the spread of COVID-19 in offices” and according to these, if one or two cases are reported, the disinfection procedure will be limited to the areas occupied and visited by the patient in the last 48 hours.

Work can resume after disinfection has been completed as per laid down protocols, the standard operating procedures (SOPs), which were issued on Saturday, stated.

If a larger number of cases are reported at a workplace, the whole block or building should be disinfected before work is resumed, the ministry said.

Officers and staff residing in containment zones should inform the same to their supervisory officer and not attend office till the containment zone is denotified. Such staff should be permitted to work from home, the new SOPs stated.

Offices in containment zones shall remain closed except for medical and essential services and only those outside will be allowed to open up, the document said.

The SOPs stated that only asymptomatic staff or visitors shall be allowed entry, individuals must maintain a minimum distance of six feet in common places as far as feasible, and use face covers or masks at all times.

“They must be worn properly to cover the nose and the mouth. Touching the front portion of the mask or face cover to be avoided,” the ministry said.

It also underlined practising frequent handwashing with soap for at least 40 to 60 seconds, even when hands are not visibly dirty, and use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser for at least 20 seconds wherever feasible.

Meetings, as far as possible, should be done through video conferencing and large physical gatherings continue to remain prohibited, the SOPs stated.

“Offices and other workplaces are relatively close settings, with shared spaces like workstations, corridors, elevators and stairs, parking places, cafeteria/canteens, meeting rooms and conference halls etc, COVID-19 infection can spread relatively fast among officials, staffs and visitors,” according to the procedures.

“There is a need to prevent the spread of infection and to respond in a timely and effective manner in case suspect case of COVID-19 is detected in these settings, so as to limit the spread of infection,” the SOPs said.

Entrances of offices should have mandatory provisions for hand hygiene like sanitiser dispensers, thermal screening. These should be proper cleaning and frequent sanitisation, at least twice a day, of the workplace, particularly of the frequently touched surfaces, according to the document.

The number of people in elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining physical distancing norms for which proper markings should be made on the floor of the elevators, the SOPs stated.

For air-conditioning and ventilation, the guidelines of Central Public Works Department must be followed and these mention that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 degrees 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, they said.

Cleaning and regular disinfection using one per cent sodium hypochlorite of frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, benches, washroom fixtures, must be done in office premises and in common areas at least twice a day, the new SOPs stated.

The document said that any shop, stall, cafeteria or canteen outside and within the office premises must ensure physical distancing norms are being followed at all times.

Staff should take their temperature regularly and check for respiratory symptoms and must see a doctor if they feel unwell or show flu-like symptoms.

Besides, staff and waiters should wear mask and hand gloves and take other required precautionary measures. The seating arrangement has to be done to ensure a distance of at least six feet, the SOPs stated.

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