In late December 2019 a new (novel) coronavirus was identified in China causing severe respiratory disease including pneumonia. It was originally named Novel Coronavirus and The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised the following language associated with the current situation.
The virus causing the infection has been named – severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The disease caused as a result of infection is named – coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
COVID-19 has been categorised as an airborne High Consequence Infections Disease (HCID).
SARS-CoV-2 is spreading between people globally and can be seen on the WHO situation reports dashboard which is updated daily. As of 26th February 2020 an increasing number of cases are being identified in Europe with transmission occurring outside of travel to China.
As a newly identified virus there is currently no human immunity to it and no vaccine is available to prevent infection. As a viral infection, antibiotics are not an effective treatment.
Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses and one of the main causes of the common cold. In general, someone infected will present with mild to moderate respiratory like symptoms. Including this new strain there are seven different coronaviruses, that we know of, which can infect people and make them sick. Those with underlying illness and co morbidity are the most seriously affected and this appears to be the case with this new strain. Other examples of Coronavirus include MERS Co-V and SARS both of which have prompted global collaboration to reduce spread between people and to protect healthcare workers.
The Government and WHO (World Health Organisation) are fast moving with regards to the evolving situation and as with any new strain of virus, the guidance for healthcare workers and health and social care services is being developed and updated frequently. This reflects the need to take a view of the global situation and our growing understanding of infection risk of this new virus; incubation time, infectiousness and severity of the infection.
All employees should familiarise themselves with our local policies on emergency planning, infection prevention and control (These can be found via Citation Atlas – Please contact your line manager) and other relevant guidance in addition to any national guidance issued by the Department of Health and Social Care and the relevant UK Public Health agencies see below for links. This information is updated regularly to reflect the changing situation. It is important that employees look on the web sites and check they are looking at the most up to date information.
Publication of the UK Coronavirus action plan (3 March 2020)
In response to an increase number of infections identified in the UK the Government has published its Coronavirus action plan. This sets out what the UK as a whole has done to date – and plans to do – to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The exact response to the outbreak will reflect the nature, scale and location of infection as the situation develops.
UK Coronavirus action plan
Public information campaign
The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a public information campaign highlighting the importance of handwashing and other measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): campaign information and resources
Employers have a duty of care under the Control of Substances Hazardous Health 2002 (COSHH) https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/ to assess and reduce the risks from exposure to biological hazards. Under COSHH employers need to identify who may be harmed by a biological agent and how they may be exposed.
Latest guidance from Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive will inform the COSHH assessment and what steps need to be taken including the identification of potential patients with COVID-19, isolation procedures and precautions such as negative pressure ventilation and the provision and safe use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Staff may be anxious by what the read in the media and employers should ensure that all care staff are provided with factual information on COVID-19, the steps that their employer is taking to identify and manage suspected cases and what care staff can do to protect themselves, including reinforcing hand hygiene. Staff who may be required to deliver personal care to affected patients, should have the necessary skills and experience and be provided with training and information on any additional infection prevention and control measures needed to work in such environments including the safe donning and removal of PPE.
Organisational Health & Safety representatives and leads should be kept informed of measures being taken to protect staff and there should be mechanisms in place that allow safety representatives to raise concerns with senior managers/health and safety/coronavirus leads on behalf of staff. To also ensure there are appropriate safeguarding measures in place for staff and patents/ service users.
Employees who are concerned should speak to the:
PHE guidance for health care providers for staff who have travelled to China or Northern Italy.
For health protection advice, contact your local health protection team:
Find your local health protection team in England
Patients who are concerned should be advised to contact NHS 111 or their GP.
Coronavirus advice for employees as at 05 March 2020
The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2 to 14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, they have not been infected.
Signs and symptoms of COVID-19
The following symptoms may develop in the 14 days after exposure to someone who has COVID-19 infection:
- difficulty in breathing
Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
If you are concerned about your own health and the work you do, contact NHS 111, your GP / a medical practitioner and/or Occupational Health.
Health Advice for travellers to / from specified countries
In line with Public Health England advice, the organisation will follow measures based on Category 1 and Category 2 specified countries/areas
Category 1: Travellers to/from these locations (see link) should self-isolate, even if asymptomatic, and call NHS 111 (or your local medical practitioner/health service) to inform of recent travel. You should report to your team leader on a daily basis.
Category 2: Travellers to/from these locations (see link) do not need to undertake any special measures, but if they develop symptoms they should self-isolate and call NHS 111 (or your local medical practitioner/health service).
The guidance for Italy, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (Republic of Korea), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam applies to individuals who returned from these specific areas on or after 19 February 2020.
Advice is in place for what to do if you have returned in the last 14 days from specified countries or areas which is being updated on an ongoing basis.
Many countries in Asia and some further afield have introduced screening measures and entry restrictions at border crossings and transport hubs. If you have recently been in China or other affected countries, you may not be allowed to enter or transit, or you may be required to enter a period of quarantine after entry. Check the latest travel information before your travel.
Operational Advice – Summary of current travel restrictions
The organisation advises against all travel to: Mainland China, Iran, northern Italy (particularly towns under containment), Daegu and Cheongdo in the Republic of Korea.
The organisation advises against all but essential travel to: Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan,Thailand and Vietnam.
We advise against all travel to Hubei Province
All activity in China is considered to be High Risk.
Note there are travel restrictions and border closures in the China/Hong Kong/Singapore area.
Visit the Country Pages for more information.
Operational Advice – Advice for staff returning from travel anywhere else in the world within the last 14 days
Currently, there are minimal cases outside the listed areas and therefore the likelihood of an individual coming into contact with a confirmed case is extremely low.
Staff can continue to attend work unless they have been informed that they have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
If you or a colleague has had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 contact NHS 111 (or local medical provider) for further advice.
The latest country information is available on the NaTHNac Travel Pro website.
What you can do to reduce the risk of catching Coronavirus
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.
- Put used tissues in the bin straight away.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. See hand washing guidance.
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
If you are worried about symptoms, please call NHS 111. Do not go directly to your GP or other healthcare environment.
It is normal to be feeling concerned and anxious about the Coronavirus outbreak, especially if you or those you know are directly affected by it – it is an evolving and uncertain situation.
The best thing to do is keep yourself informed and up to date with the relevant information and to follow the official guidance.
What to do if you become unwell and believe you may have been exposed to Covid-19
If you have not been to specified areas in the last 14 days, then normal practice should continue.
If you, a colleague or a visitor becomes unwell whilst in the workplace and has travelled to China or other affected countries, the unwell person should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.
The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 (or medical provider), or 999 if an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) and explain which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and outline their current symptoms.
Whilst they wait for advice from NHS 111 or an ambulance to arrive, they should remain at least 2 metres from other people. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
If a person becomes ill in a shared space, contact Manager and request the workplace be cleaned using disposable cloths and household detergents, according to normal procedures.
If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available.
Testing for Coronavirus
We are not currently aware of any laboratories or healthcare providers that offer private testing anywhere.
In the UK all requests for laboratory testing must meet the criteria for a possible case of COVID-19. The process is currently overseen by Public Health England to ensure continuity of care.
If you have symptoms and are concerned about your health, contact NHS 111 / your local health provider.
General advice for staff – Guidance on facemasks
Employees are not recommended to wear facemasks (also known as surgical masks or respirators) to protect against the virus.
Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever.
The best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.