COVID-19: NCDC rolls out new guidelines for employers, businesses

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has rolled out additional preventive measures for individuals, employers and businesses in the country.

This follows the Federal Government’s May 4 easing of COVID-19 lockdown in parts of the country.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of NCDC, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja that the new directives resulted from evolving knowledge of COVID-19 locally and nationally.

Ihekweazu said that these will be applied nationwide to individuals as well as businesses, employers and employees.

“Mandatory use of non-medical face mask/covering for all persons and overnight curfew from 8p.m. to 6a.m.

“This means that all movements will be prohibited during this period except for essential services.

“Mandatory provision of handwashing facilities/sanitisers, Single use latex gloves are discouraged, except in clinical settings, or if used, they should be disposed of safely after each single use.

“Restrictions on inter-state travel except for essential services or transportation of agricultural produce and other essential goods and extensive temperature checks on entry into the business premises and other public places.

“Physical distancing of two metres between people in workplaces and other public places and no large gatherings of more than 20 people outside the workplace,” he said.

The DG advised employers and businesses to take the following measures seriously with a view to reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the workplace.

“Provide handwashing facilities/alcohol-based sanitizers – promote thorough and frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 second,” he advised.

He said that employers could reduce the risk of spread of virus by ensuring extensive temperature checks on entry into office and business premises.

“Mandate the use of non-medical face mask/covering for all staff at all times. Develop physical distancing strategies within the office or business environment to safeguard the health and safety of employees in line with guidelines set out by the NCDC.

“Where staff members have regular face-to-face contact with customers, ensure they have the necessary protective equipment to keep them safe and their health protected.

“Develop an infectious disease preparedness action plan to reduce the risk of exposure in the workplace and communicate it to all staff members.

“This includes identifying a central person focused on coordinating COVID-19 matters.

“Ensure the contact details and emergency contact details of all staff members is kept up to date and is always easily accessible.

“Ensure that staff members know how to spot the symptoms of coronavirus and they have a clear understanding what to do if they feel unwell, mandating unwell employees to stay at home.

“Display signage in your office or business premises reminding staff and visitors to maintain good and respiratory hygiene.

“Discourage the sharing of work equipment, tools, computers, phones and desks,” he said.

According to Ihekweazu, employers can also adapt business practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by developing policies and practices that enable employees to work more flexibly and remotely.

“Working from home and leverage technology to arrange virtual meetings with employees and clients. Ensure adequate space between employees (minimum 2 metres), limiting staff to about 30 per cent – 50 per cent of the normal workspace capacity.

“Limit customers in the business premises to about 30 per cent – 50 per cent capacity at any one time. Decide on the level of staff required to come to work, as the business re-opens, e.g. support staff, receptionists, catering staff.

“Consider the staggered re-introduction of staff members into the office, using staff rotas and flexible work hours or work shifts. Where possible, businesses should provide transportation for their employees to limit their use of public transport.

“Limit the number of visitors to your office premises and take advantage of enterprise video conferencing tools. Put into place flexible workplace policies to respond to staff absenteeism, with an efficient process to ensure the smooth handover of work from one staff member to the other when required,” he stated.

The DG advised businesses to take advantage of delivery companies to limit their staff movement outside the office.

“If any employee is showing known symptoms of COVID-19, they should immediately self-isolate in a separate room in the office or business premises and call the state helpline or contact NCDC on 0800 9700 0010 for further guidance. While awaiting laboratory test results,” he said.

He said that if there is any suspected case of COVID-19 in any work place, employers should make sure that staff self-isolate and employers should carry out a risk assessment to ascertain whether there is a need to close the office or business premises.

“Employers or businesses may also encourage staff to work from home until the outcome of test results is known.

“Employers should also continue to ensure basic hygiene advice is followed, work premises are kept clean and waste is disposed of appropriately. Once the results are available, business owners will be advised accordingly,” he explained.

Ihekweazu said that in a case where COVID-19 is confirmed at workplace, the employers should immediately contact
the state Ministry of Health, which will now contact the workplace to discuss the case, identify people who have been close contacts of the employee and advise on further actions or precautions that should be taken.

He said that based on the assessment of the work premises which would include shutting down temporarily and disinfecting the premises.

Ihekweazu said that employees who were contacts would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case.

He noted that employees who were living in a household with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should also be asked to self-isolate for 14 days until all members in the household receive a negative test confirmation.

The DG, however said that If they develop known COVID-19 symptoms during the self-isolation period, they should contact their state helpline or NCDC on 0800 9700 0010.

He said that the definition of a contact includes: “Any staff member in close face-to-face or touching contact including those undertaking small group work within 2 metres of the case.”

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