Fri, 02 Oct 2020

It's that dreaded message from your ward councillor and the catalyst for havoc on many community WhatsApp groups: "This local supermarket is closed due to a staff member testing positive for Covid-19."

Across South Africa, more than 61 supermarkets have had to temporarily close their doors due to staff testing positive or being exposed to Covid-19. In the Western Cape alone, more than 200 supermarket workers have tested positive for the virus, according to the Western Cape Department of Health.

Experts like Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and Dr. Keith Cloete, head of the Western Cape Health Department have concluded that grocery stores are proving to be a fertile breeding ground for Covid-19 as clusters of outbreaks continue to pop up at supermarkets. While these have been some of the only workplaces allowed to operate during level-5 and level-4 lockdown restrictions, it's natural to wonder if these hotspots are only relative - or will we face the same challenges when schools, offices and more retails spaces open their doors in the months to come?

Although public health authorities are taking action to contain outbreaks, all sections of society - including businesses and employers - must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease. From testing surfaces before employees return to work to preventing the spread of Covid-19 when they do, there are several things business owners and industry leaders can do to ensure their workplaces are ready to open again.

First and foremost, test your workplace for the virus. At the moment, NOSA Testing is the only entity in South Africa that is able to carry out surface and environmental sampling for the detection of the Coronavirus S-gene specific to Covid-19, in accordance with the World Health Organization's protocols. On top of surface and environmental testing, NOSA can also assist businesses with Covid-19 legal compliance; Covid-19 employee induction training; Covid-19 employer implementation training; disinfectant efficacy testing and alcohol content analysis.

Secondly, make sure your workplace remains safe. Business owners are required to provide their staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure that their work environment is regularly cleaned and sanitised, according to lockdown regulations. General safety precautions to encourage in your workplace, according to the World Health Organization, include:

Maintaining physical distance (a minimum of 1.5 metres) from other individuals Performing hand hygiene with an alcohol-based hand rub (70%) or with soap and warm waterAvoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouthPracticing respiratory hygiene by coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or tissue and then immediately disposing of the tissue Wearing a mask in public

Lastly, know what to do when Covid-19 creeps in. If an employee has been exposed to, or contracted the novel virus, workplaces are required to immediately close up shop and report it to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and their provincial Department of Health. Once the store or office has been disinfected in accordance with hygiene protocols in consultation with the Department of Health, it will be allowed to reopen again.

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