In this era of the ravaging pandemic influenza virus known as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in most countries across the globe, facility managers, being the custodians of health and safety in the built environment, have had to play major roles in helping curb this menace.
Do you find yourself confused with the barrage of information from verified and unverified sources all over the internet and other media? If your answer is yes, then keep calm and read on, we provide you with every accurate information about COVID-19 to help you get it straight.
This article tries to answer the following questions:
- What is COVID-19?
- How does the virus spread from person-to-person?
- What are some of the misconceptions surrounding the virus?
- What we know so far?
- What measures are being put in place by facility managers?
- How can you stop the spread?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.
The virus can spread from person-to-person. This is when you come into contact with an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes on you, the droplets could carry the virus that can spread to persons at a very close proximity. This means health workers caring for infected persons and close relatives who spend time with infected persons are mostly at risk.
Due to the sudden emergence of the the virus and its rapid transmission rate, a lot of information have been flying all over the place on social media, other digital media and the internet in general. These has led to the consumption of unverified information and myths by the anxious public leading to many misconceptions about the virus. Popular among them include:
- COVID-19 virus cannot be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
- Taking a hot bath can prevent the new coronavirus disease
- The new coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites
- Hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus
- Eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus
- Wearing rubber gloves help prevent the new coronavirus
The WHO has given information on these misconceptions and the right information to guide us on their website.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. COVID-19 animal carriers is not yet known and there is no known vaccine or cure against the virus so far. The global statistics on the spread and fatalities shows a low death rates due to intensive education and extreme measures by governments all over the world. For instance the Government of Ghana in a televised speech by the President gave directives on measures taken to curb the spread and contain the virus in Ghana.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
We at Listening Bureau take the issue of health and safety in our various managed facilities very seriously and this is at the heart of facilities management. We have sourced high level of technical information through the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to guide the protocols we are implementing to safeguard our clients and also advice the general public.
We believe in offering the right, credible and quality information to our readers through our various digital media channels. We have therefore intensified education on the virus to cover not only our clients but the interested public in general. Hotlines and safety measures have been pasted at various vantage points at all our facilities to ensure conformity and awareness.
Further to this, we have in accordance with internationally accepted standards and protocols cancelled all public gatherings within all our facilities. For instance, the Accra City Hall which is a host to hundreds of event attendees weekly has been shut to all public events. Private marriages in the City Hall has been limited to six(6) participants.
Upgraded hygiene standards
All cleaning schedules at various facilities have been amended and an emergency plan has been activated. This means cleaning intervals have become shorter, and even very short for surfaces like metallic and worktops.
Deep cleaning of common areas are now more frequent than before and more powerful cleaning agents are being applied by all our staff to ensure high hygiene levels.
‘Veronica buckets’ have been placed at the entry points of various facilities to ensure that infected persons do not carry the virus on their hands into the facilities. This is to encourage hand-washing culture among the populace. The structure of veronica buckets ensures hand washing under running water. This method is a sure way to prevent the spread of the virus.
Other technologically backed measures include the use of no-contact infrared thermometers which can pick temperature of entrants into facilities without making physical contacts. By this method, persons recording higher than normal temperatures, which may be due to fever being one of the symptoms of the coronavirus infection, will be easily detected and reported to appropriate health authorities.
Main doors to all public facilities under management has been left open to reduce the risk of people leaving door handles infected upon touch.
Front-line staff has been equipped with nose masks to prevent possible infection from other people who interact with them from very close distance. Social distance protocols have been activated and set at 3 meters apart whiles most of our clients have accepted to reduce the number of occupants in various facilities to allow only essential staff to have physical presence whiles others use various technology to work from home.
Hand sanitizer automatic dispensers have been fixed at various vantage points in all facilities to ensure that alcohol-base sanitizers are available to help occupants keep clean hands within the facilities at all times.
Catch it! Bin it! Kill it!
It is critical that the public has the right information on what to do should anyone experience any flu-like symptom in times like this. We have adopted the popular slogan to advice the public on what to do to stop the spread.
In the three simple step process, people who are experiencing coughs and sneezing will have to always:
The COVID-19 virus spread easily through droplets from sneezing or coughing. Always carry tissue with you to catch your cough or sneeze.
The virus can survive on tissues for hours. Do not expose them to other people. Place them in a bin as soon as you use them to avoid infecting others.
Infected hands can transfer the virus to any surface it touches. After sneezing or coughing clean your hands as soon as you can with alcohol base-sanitizer and make hand washing with soap under running water the best bet against spreading the virus.
In an extreme case, go into self quarantine to protect your immediate friends and family or even work colleagues. Human Resource Managers, Facility Managers and employers should be on the lookout for employees which flu-like symptoms and help them to get medical attention quickly.
People should also be mindful of their personal habits including diet and exercise. Healthy living is a sure way to develop a strong immune system to resist the virus.
Until a vaccine is clinically tested and produced in mass quantities to help us resist this pandemic influenza virus, we should all take preventive measures seriously.