COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the newly discovered coronavirus that causes illnesses such as the common cold to severe respiratory illnesses. People can catch the virus through small droplets from the nose or mouth when the affected person coughs or exhales. The disease is known to have more effect on older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions than other people. Countries around the world are working on developing a vaccine and taking precautionary measures by educating their population and even taking stern actions such as community isolation and travel ban.
Companies and individuals are also equally responsible for the safekeeping of others for which preventive measures need to be adopted to avoid contamination. Companies like Google have established a COVID-19 fund that enables all temporary staff, globally to take paid leave if they show potential symptoms. Amazon announced that it will be offering unlimited sick leave for those who tested positive for COVID-19.
Likewise, companies in Nepal are establishing health screening by checking the temperature of employees before entering office premises and allowing work from home option to those showing early mild symptoms. We drafted this blog to share the knowledge we have gathered through our desk-research and our approach to help other Nepali Startups and SMEs to be prepared.
In the light of current circumstances, it is important to maintain effective communication between team members and educate everyone regarding viral infection. Besides, good communication, companies should also provision masks & sanitizers and temperature taking could be incorporated in order to detect early symptoms.
With regards to planning and responding to the coronavirus outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA has prepared guidelines on safe practices for businesses and employers. This guideline is mainly focused on social distancing and maintaining proper hygiene. Some recommended strategies companies can adopt are:
- Ensuring sick leave policies are flexible that permits employees to stay at home to take care of themselves or their family members.
- Encouraging employees having acute respiratory illnesses to stay at home. Any employee showing early symptoms should notify their supervisors and stay at home.
- Employees showing signs of any symptoms or becoming sick upon arrival at the office should be separated from the rest of the employees and sent home immediately.
- Placing posters highlighting cough & sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene in workplace areas to educate employees.
- Providing adequate soap, water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in multiple locations in the workplace. Also, guaranteeing adequate supply and stock for the same.
- Cleaning frequently touched workplace areas such as desks, doorknobs and attendance monitoring systems.
- Advising employees who routinely travel to check and test themselves with health officials. At the same time, it is important to minimize travel and use of public vehicles.
We at Biruwa Advisors, have also developed policies and practices in response to COVID-19 which is to be adhered by all the team members:
Sick Leave/Work from Home
- If any team member shows any mild symptoms of COVID-19 including cough/sneezing/fever, it is recommended to work from home or take a leave of absence depending upon the situation.
- If any team member is feeling ill, but still able to work, “work from home” should be requested through email.
Travelling and Commuting
- In case of an outbreak, team members are discouraged from using public transportation. Instead, ride sharing apps such as Tootle or Pathao should be used for which the office will reimburse the expenses.
- In-person meetings should be done virtually where possible, especially with non-company parties.
- All work trips and events should be cancelled or postponed until further notice.
- A hand sanitizer should be placed near the entrance, bio-metric and all the rooms in the office.
- A tissue should be used for coughing/sneezing or the mouth should be covered with a sleeve, preferably into the elbow. The tissue should be discarded properly and hands should be cleaned/sanitized immediately.
- Hands should be washed after entering the office from outside, using the toilet, before and after eating, and after coughing/sneezing into the hands. Hand sanitizers can also be used as an alternative.
- Desk tops, electronic items, light switches, door knobs should be disinfected and cleaned every day.
- The office should be stocked with all the necessary supplies including hand sanitizer, disinfectants, paper towels, toilet paper, liquid soaps, surgical masks and other things as required.
- Touching the face, particularly eyes, nose, and mouth with hands should be avoided to prevent from getting infected.
- It is advised to limit the number of people in a room to four.
All the precautionary measures suggested in this blog should be taken seriously and one should regularly update themselves with the recent developments. However, not all information might be reliable. It is therefore suggested to individuals to follow only those information from reliable sources and discard myths. To find out about some of the mythbusters, click here.
For further information on prevention and response plans, readers can follow the links below:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO): COVID-19 Outbreak
- Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal
- Department of Health Services, Nepal
- Emergency Contact Numbers- Nepal