by SUMINDA S S DHARMASENA
With Covid-19 on the rise again, the people, businesses and government should take necessary steps to curtail it. Everyone involved should assess the risks of contagion and put measures to mitigate the risk. In addition, steps should be taken to traceability of an infected person to an establishment. Also, the public should be empowered to take additional preventative steps, based on the risk.
The government has put in place a legal policy framework to manage the pandemic situation. This merits some improvements. Here are policies and procedures to follow given the threat level. The epidemic threat level advisory for infectious diseases could have the following levels:
Severe (red) – severe risk – full curfew – spread to multiple areas, 5+ level separation from patient zero
High (orange) – high risk – travel is permitted only for essential services, partial curfew hours – on detecting multiple clusters or significant spread, with 3 to 4 level separation from patient zero
Elevated (yellow) – significant risk – in addition, travel is restricted using passes to go to work, restricted travel by ID number for shopping – on detecting 1st cluster with 1 to 2 levels of separation from patient zero
Guarded (blue) – general risk – advise public to curtail travel, disinfection at all establishments, visitor tracking, checking for symptoms of visitors – initially a person is detected in the country
Low (green) – low risk – areas with no threat of infectious disease, hence normal life can continue – no disease in the country or internationally
Each area, district, province should get a threat assessment and the public should be made aware of it through media.
The threat levels and government, organizational and civil procedures should be later codified systematically into pandemic and epidemic preventions laws, taking into account how diseases spread. This should include procedures for airborne, waterborne, contact-based, social and other methods for further disease prevention.
Procedures to Follow
All private and publishing establishments should follow preventive and traceability best practices based on the regional threat assessment.
The best practices that each establishment can follow:
Floors should be moped regularly
All establishments should have a sanitizing footbath mat
All large establishments where people frequent like shopping malls, supermarkets, offices, ministries should have sanitization chamber fitted at the entrance
The door handles should be sanitised after each touch
Pens in supermarkets, banks should be sanitised after each touch
If the establishment has A/Cs or other ventilation systems, disinfectants should be continuously added to the ventilation system so this does not become the means of spreading disease
In shops and stores, customers should be advised to touch only what they intended to buy, and any products which are touched needs to be disinfected. In the case of food products, these should only be handled by staff. For packaged items in shelves, they should be regularly sprayed with non-toxic sanitisers like pure alcohol.
Shopping carts and baskets should be disinfected after each use
Countertops should be disinfected after each customer
Seats should be disinfected after each use in public places and transport
All public vehicles should be fitted with disinfectant misters/foggers at the doors. Supermarkets should ideally be fitted in the aisles with motion sensors or periodic spraying. Similarly for public building and enclosed areas
All taps and disinfectant dispensers at entrances should be by foot or motion or proximity detection
1m markers should be placed for each queue. The separation between queues should be 1 metre also
For sitting arrangements, there should be an empty with an unmovable dummy box placed on it to promote social distancing. Extra chairs should not be removed. This prevents people from moving the chairs closer to each other, in social gatherings like weddings
Seating areas should be fully partitioned to avoid respiratory droplets spreading and accidental contact. This should extend under the tables as well so there is no accidental contact when once stretchers one’s legs
Retail shops should be encouraged to move to contactless payments and banks replace current cards with contactless cards
Though there is no strong evidence, cash can be a source of infections spreading, hence before recirculation, they should be disinfected using UV lamps
Validations and Calibration – in order to prevent a false sense of safety and the following procedure
All disinfectants should be quality checked to see if they are not adulterated and effective
All equipment should be calibrated to see if they are functioning properly
The recording of visitors should be done by a designated person, otherwise, the logbook and pen could be a source of spreading infections
Supermarkets and shops with loyalty programmes can easily use this to track visitors. Therefore, no need to record this in books. But each time one enters and exists one should swipe the card. Shops can work to upgrade the cards or issue new replacement cards to do the tracking
The testing should be made systematic balancing cost and coverage. Employees and building owners should compile a list of people per floor in the building. At least one person on each floor should be tested per day. Similarly for shops, where each individual gets tested at least once every other month
People taking the same route using public transport should be similarly tested every other month in a systematic way
In order to be extra vigilant and take additional precautions, the public should be given information on which street and area patient lives and
what areas each patient has frequented
The government and media should publicise the best practices followed by various establishments to curtail the current pandemic
Any violation of safety precautions and actions taken should be publicised also
The government should be swift to take action against any violations of public safety standards
Lack of proper disinfection
Lack of enforcement of social distancing
Lack of contact-free washing facilities
Lack of proper responsible record keeping
Lack of proper calibration checking
The government should expand field offices in the Public Health Inspectors services with latest technologies body cams and ensure most establishments are frequently checked
Checks and raids by Public Health Inspectors should become and common occurrence in schools, government departments, offices and shops
This should continue even after the pandemic situation ends as public safety has no compromise
Lack of public safety should be made a criminal offence
In cases of infectious people visiting a certain place, cellular data can be used to find who else was there at the same time to curtain spreading
Organisations should be at the forefront of trying to curtail the situation and make aware of the innovative procedures they are follow as a reassurance to workers and the public. Any organisation not following the procedures they purported to follow should be made liable.
All institution should have checkers to visit branch offices and premises to see that the whole organisation adheres to public health standards
Make it a civil fundamental right to be in a safe environment at work or as a customer. The public should be given the right to take action if any establishment does not provide a safe environment. Implementation of this right should be well publicised. This would keep more businesses and establishments in check.
Also if anybody gets sick by visiting any establishment which does not provide a safe environment, it should be made liable for damages
These cases should be swiftly dealt with and settles through an appropriate establishment and tribunals bypassing the court system
Having the proper procedures implemented along with the legal framework would to a certain extent help combat the current Covid situation. The government policy at this crucial juncture will decide the fate of the country and its people.