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Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19

Coronavirus

In response to some frequently asked questions we have had over the past few months on the subject, we thought it would be useful to dedicate this post to answering some of these questions.

What’s in a name? Coronavirus, COVID, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2?

The name “corona” is a Latin word which means “crown” or a “wreath”, which in turn comes from the Greek word ‘κορώνη’ (Korone). The name denotes the characteristic appearance of the virons under a microscope, which appear as bulbous spikes.
Human Coronaviruses were first discovered in humans back in the 1960’s. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, all of which have spiky proteins on their surface. Some of these viruses cause the common cold. Other coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, primarily infect animals.
The novel coronavirus has been named ‘SARS-CoV-2’. The disease caused by it has been named COVID-19.

Is the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmitted by food?

By virtue of the fact this virus is new, there are still things pertaining to this virus which are unclear. However, studies to-date show that COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease and that the main transmission is through humans and not food. But as always, it is essential that good food hygiene practices are stringently followed, not only to ensure protection against COVID-19, but from other viruses which are foodborne, for instance, Hepatitis A and Norovirus, and will indeed reduce the likelihood of contamination of foods with any pathogen.

What about Food packaging?

The majority of scientists believe that the virus cannot survive on packaging for an extended period of time, because of poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging. However, it is important that practical control measures are in place, and staff handling food within its primary and secondary packaging should always wash their hands immediately afterwards and refrain from touching their eyes, ears, nose or mouth. Moreover, it is advisable that external packaging is not handled more than necessary.

Return to work: Workplace controls

As the lockdown measures begin to ease and the nation ‘gets back to work’ it is essential that businesses ensure that sensible, practical and effective control measures are put in place to prevent the potential spread of the virus. As stated already, the main transmission route of the virus is from direct human-to-human contact.
As a general rule, the longer someone is in close contact with an infected person, the more likely they are to catch the virus themselves, but it is still possible to catch it within a few minutes.

Directors, business owners and senior managers alike, should have dialogue prior to staff returning to their workplace, so that appropriate plans can be developed and put in place before workers return. Further discussions should take place very soon after staff return to ensure that controls are working and are being adhered to. It will also be necessary for further discussions as things evolve or anything significantly changes. For example, when new guidelines are published or the restrictions change, but also, if the controls are not working as expected.
It is vital however, that iteration between parties and lines of communication are kept open between managers and staff and that there is sufficient time allocated to have these conversations.

Workplace control measures will vary from business to business, and could include, but are not limited to:

– Individuals should not share vehicles or cabs when travelling, where suitable distancing cannot be achieved.
– Utilise the least amount of staff as necessary
– Stagger shifts
– Staff to decontaminate / wash hands thoroughly on starting their shift
– The use of correct PPE
– The use of a one way system
– A ‘one in one out’ system in certain areas where appropriate
– Restrict visitors to the site – only authorised personnel and key / essential workers permitted
– Maintain the 2 metre distancing rule at all times during the shifts. The use of markers, signs, tape and / or floor mats reinforcing this will serve as a guide and a visual reminder
– Staff to work back-to-back where possible – especially where space is an issue
– Stagger breaks and start and finish times.

Employers should always make sure that all employees are aware of the most up-to-date guidelines regarding self-isolation – especially if they or someone in their household has symptoms of COVID-19. Always ensure that support and reassurance is readily available for anyone who is self-isolating, but also for those other workers who may be anxious about returning to work.

For further advice on COVID-19 controls in your workplace, please contact us.