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Providing information to reduce sickness and absence (FREE Coronavirus Awareness Video)

Washing hands thoroughly

Last updated: 24/03/20

Given the recent events in China and the further spread of the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19 or the Novel Coronavirus) into Europe, it’s time to think about how you can provide information to staff which will help reduce sickness absence as a result of common colds and influenza.

Useful resources: 

Remember we are always on hand to help you with any questions or concerns you might have. Get in touch with us today at hello@ihasco.co.uk or call us on 01344 867088 to find out more about how we can help you with resources and training for your organisation. 

Free Coronavirus awareness video resource from iHASCO

Coronavirus is hitting the headlines. The news can be frightening, and whilst raising awareness and sharing important information is a good thing, creating panic isn’t. 

Fear of the unknown and feeling like we have a lack of control certainly contributes to further panic. But what’s important is learning what there is to know at the moment, and how this information can help us to take preventive measures, whilst also knowing what to do if further action is needed. Thankfully, there are a few things that can be done.

With this in mind, we felt it was our duty to use our expertise and resources to provide a free online awareness video about the Coronavirus.

This free 9-minute online resource can be accessed via our Coronavirus eLearning webpageYouTube and Vimeo.

For our clients - you will also be able to add this video as a free course for your learners. Just log-in to your LMS, navigate to “Course library” and click on the green banner at the top of the page. Adding this to your library will cost nothing and doesn’t use any credits.

What does this free video contain?

The official name for Coronavirus is COVID-19, or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus but for simplicity we will refer to it as Coronavirus. The information contained in our video has been gathered from the NHS, the Direct Gov website, The World Health Organization, and it also includes a few useful tips from our Infection Prevention & Control course. This short resource covers: 

  • What Coronavirus is
  • Prevention and reducing risks of it spreading
  • Best hygiene practises
  • What to do if you’re showing symptoms

All individuals and organisations will benefit from this free resource and it can be completed in less than 10 minutes. Having a greater understanding of how viruses spread will give you more confidence in your ability to reduce the risk of becoming ill. 

Updated Coronavirus Awareness Video - iHASCO

More information and guidance 

Is Coronavirus an infection?

There are many different types of infections and they can range from mild to severe. A virus is a type of infection, and coronavirus - as the name states - is a type of virus.

Infectious diseases can spread from person to person. You become infected when one gets into your body, survives your immune response, and starts to reproduce and grow. This can cause you to feel unwell.

There are many potential sources of infection around us as we go about our usual day-to-day lives. We may, for example, be exposed to bacteria in food and drink, or on surfaces we touch. We may breathe in airborne viruses or catch them from contact with infected people. It's often difficult to identify the original source of an infection.

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a type of virus that can affect your lungs and airways. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world.

But, as this is a new strain of the virus, we don’t know exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread in cough droplets. It's highly unlikely that it spreads through packages from affected countries or through food.

Scientists are currently working hard to find out more about it, and our understanding of the virus is likely to change as new information becomes available.

How do I reduce the risks of spreading Coronavirus?

There’s currently no vaccine for this virus, but there are things you can do to help stop germs like the Coronavirus from spreading:

  • First of all, the NHS advise that you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve - not your hands - when you cough or sneeze, and then put any used tissues in the bin straight away
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water – using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • And avoid close contact with people who are unwell

They also tell you to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean. There are also other things you can do to help prevent infections from spreading:

  • Keep your fingernails short
  • Don’t wear wristwatches, bracelets, or rings (apart from plain bands) as they can harbour germs and also make handwashing less effective
  • At work, you can wear personal protective equipment, such as disposable gloves, masks, aprons and oversleeves, when you handle anything that may be contaminated with pathogens
  • Keep clothes and protective equipment clean by washing them regularly. Putting clothing on a hot wash, hot ironing them or tumble-drying them should kill any bacteria present
  • Keep your work and home environment clean, especially frequently touched objects and surfaces such as phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches and tabletops
  • Get rid of waste regularly, for example by picking up rubbish and emptying bins. Use foot-operated bins rather than lifting lids with your hands 
  • Take particular care to throw away used tissues, sanitary waste, and medical waste correctly and immediately—and remember to wash your hands afterwards!
  • Bacteria can build up on cloths and re-used towels, so always use single-use disposable towels or hand-dryers if they’re available, to avoid spreading bacteria

The importance of handwashing

Keeping your hands clean is one of the important control methods for reducing the spread of infections but it is most effective if you follow the steps below:

To wash your hands:

  1. Use clean, hot, running water and soap – preferably antibacterial liquid soap from a dispenser – as soap bars can harbour germs.
  2. Wet your hands thoroughly.
  3. Rub soap into your palms to form a lather.
  4. Clean your hands for 20 to 30 seconds. Go between your right and left hand for each of these areas – the backs, between your fingers, your thumbs and your wrists. Remember to check and clean your fingernails too.
  5. Then rinse the soap off with clean, hot, running water.
  6. Turn the tap off with a disposable hand towel to avoid re-contaminating your hands. 
  7. Dry your hands thoroughly using a second disposable hand towel or a hand dryer. Make sure you dry your hands properly – it's easier for harmful bacteria to spread if your hands are wet or damp.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

Generally, much like the flu, the Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, such as older people and those with long-term health conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

The main symptoms of this virus are a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms - even IF they’re mild - you should not go to the doctors or the hospital because it could put others at risk. Instead, stay indoors for 7 days and avoid contact with others. You can use the NHS 111 Online Advisory Service if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, if your condition gets worse, or if your symptoms do not get better after 7 days. Only call 111 if the online service is unavailable. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you are staying at home.

If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

Stay at home if you have either:

a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
a new, continuous cough – this means you've started coughing repeatedly

NHS

Treatment of Coronavirus

If there's a chance you could have Coronavirus, you may be asked to isolate yourself which means, that for 7 days you:

  • Should stay at home
  • Should ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you
  • Should not go to work, school or public areas
  • Should not use public transport or taxis
  • And avoid having visitors at home

However, it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.

If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

There is no specific treatment for the Coronavirus at the moment, but specialists offer treatment that aims to relieve the symptoms while the body fights the infection.

Will I catch Coronavirus?

Just bear in mind, even though it seems frightening at the moment, 80% of coronavirus cases are mild. Coronaviruses as a group commonly come in mild forms - much like the common cold. None the less, it is important to follow the advice above so you can help to reduce the possible spread of infection. It’s important to note that not everyone who comes into contact with a pathogen will become infected, and not everyone who becomes infected will experience the same severity of illness.

People should also continue to follow public health advice – wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and put used tissues in the bin immediately.

- Professor Keith Willett, NHS strategic incident director for Coronavirus 

How is it being handled in the UK?

In the UK, England’s chief medical officer told the BBC that ‘We basically have a strategy which depends upon four tactical aims: the first one is to contain; the second of these is to delay; the third of these is to do the science and the research; and the fourth is to mitigate so we can brace the NHS’.

The overall phases of our plan to respond to COVID-19 are:

- Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
- Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
- Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
- Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.

Coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the UK, gov.uk

There are specialist NHS infection centres that are equipped to deal with Coronavirus cases and they have accommodated people returning from at-risk areas, such as the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. The unit in Newcastle has already successfully treated and discharged patients who tested positive for Coronavirus.

Containment and isolation of Coronavirus is key to minimising its effects, so we can all play a part in making sure we know the up to date guidelines surrounding the virus. Self-isolation is a big ask of people who need to continue their day-to-day lives but it is essential to limit the spread of Coronavirus.

The health secretary reinforced on BBC’s Question Time that self isolation also involves isolating from your family members within your home as much as possible. Take precautions, wash hands, wipe down surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms as in principle it is difficult to totally avoid contact with others in your household. He also added that panic buying is unnecessary; the government is working with supermarkets so if people are self isolating they will get the supplies they need.

The government passed the Health Protection (Coronavirus) regulations 2020 in February to give authorities the power to isolate individuals posing a threat of spreading the Coronavirus. The Prime minister also made the announcement on 4th March that people should not be penalised for doing the right thing of self isolation. Statutory sick pay rules will be relaxed to allow statutory sick pay from the first day you are sick and this is being discussed in parliament as part of the emergency Coronavirus legislation.

Furthermore a decision has been taken to begin testing for Coronavirus in patients experiencing a severe chest infection at a selected number of hospitals and GP surgeries around the country, even if they haven’t been to one of the at-risk destinations. As it is thought that Coronavirus can spread from person to person, this additional step will enable the health service to stay ahead of the illness and continuing with the screening of possible cases will identify local areas that could be at risk. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a crisis meeting, which took place on Monday 2nd March 2020, and as a result published a Coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the UK.

The government aim is to ‘minimise the social and economic impact, subject to keeping people safe’ and how this will be done will be based on the situation as it develops.

Further government meetings have now seen Britain move into the delay phase to try to stall the peak of the infection. On the 16th March it was announced that the government will provide a daily update so people are aware of the latest information on how to protect themselves and others from the Coronavirus.

With the guidance changing as the UK sees more cases of Coronavirus it becomes even more important to provide information to the public. Gov.uk provides guidance on managing the Coronavirus at home if you are showing symptoms. You can access it here. Those displaying mild symptoms will not require testing but should self-isolate.

A new campaign across radio, television and internet is reminding people with symptoms of the Coronavirus, even if mild, to stay at home in order to 'protect yourself, others and the NHS'.

On 23rd March Boris Johnson addressed the nation through national TV and asked them to stay home to stop the Coronavirus from spreading. 

'From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home.

Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.

That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household;
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

That's all - these are the only reasons you should leave your home.'

What is the general advice for travellers?

Whilst the effects of coronavirus can be serious for some, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet recommended any travel or trade restrictions. However many of us will choose not to travel or book flights at the moment while the Coronavirus is impacting many parts of the world. But what about those who already have flights and travel scheduled or have to travel for work purposes?

- On 30th January 2020, the WHO Director-General has declared the outbreak of novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides foreign travel advice to those wishing to visit another country. Current advice on their website is:

'As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.'

Many countries have already imposed travel restrictions and flights to various destinations across the world have been drastically reduced with some airlines cancelling travel to certain destinations indefinitely. There are also self quarantine measures for those arriving at airports in certain countries. For example, the Australian prime minister has imposed a 14 day self quarantine period for those arriving in Australia, as of 15th March to help stem the spread of the Coronavirus and measures like these are increasing across the globe.

Therefore if you are planning to travel you should seek current advice from the FCO before you make your journey, as advice will be updated as the situation develops. You should also check with your airline if there are any restrictions or if there have been flight cancellations. It is also worth noting that some airports may have screening procedures such as temperature checks and travel history on arrival, as well as imposed quarantine periods. Therefore it is also essential you check the details of your travel insurance carefully in case you are forced to change your plans. 

Other considerations to make before travelling include; any underlying health issues that could result in more severe symptoms if you contract the Coronavirus, knowing that if you become unwell during your stay it could result in self-isolation whilst you’re away; and understanding that self-isolation recommendations may be in place when you return home dependant on the country you have visited. 

For those that are still required to travel for work purposes or have trips planned to destinations without restrictions it is important to remember that maintaining good respiratory hygiene and frequent hand washing are crucial preventative measures to reduce the risk of infection.

Should schools and UK businesses be taking Coronavirus seriously?

All schools across the UK will be closed from Friday 20th March. This move comes as the government ramps up measures to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Provisions have been made for care of vulnerable pupils or those with parents classed as key workers, such as doctors, nurses and those in the emergency services, to still attend their school setting.

Whilst the full impact of the Coronavirus remains unknown the past months have hopefully allowed schools and workplaces to encourage good personal hygiene through posters and resources, notices, emails and discussions. For those workplaces that cannot close, being prepared and ready means having a plan in place regarding how to respond to a case of Coronavirus and limit its impact on the rest of the community. It is important that staff can see that support exists and the risk of Coronavirus is being managed effectively. 

The government produced guidelines for schools to handle issues relating to the possible outbreak of Coronavirus or if pupils and their families had returned from high risk areas. It addressed issues such as what to do if a pupil was suspected of having Coronavirus and how to handle waste, such as tissues in bins. It also included resources to teach children good respiratory and hand hygiene. With some children still attending their school setting these guidelines may still be of use even though the majority of children will be at home.

Previously after the February half term break there was confusion among schools regarding the guidelines of Coronavirus. The government sent a clear message that schools should remain open despite many pupils and staff from schools across the UK returning from half term skiing trips in Northern Italy, where there had been an outbreak of Coronavirus. Some headteachers made the decision to close schools, whilst others told those suffering from mild flu symptoms to stay home and self-quarantine. 

Now the government is very clear with its plan for schools and teachers have been preparing home learning packs to support children with work outside of school in the weeks to come. 

IOSH magazine shared information on how organisations can protect employees that may be required to travel for work. Advice included questioning if travel is absolutely necessary to providing relevant training and information to employees still required to travel for work purposes. It also reminded employers to consider their employees mental health and wellbeing. 

Previously, a company in London’s Canary Wharf asked 300 employees to work from home after an employee returned from an at-risk country suffering with mild flu symptoms, as a precautionary measure. Many other businesses are also favouring home working where there are incidents of employees testing positive for the Coronavirus.

The action taken by each organisation needs to be specific to them, along with having measures in place which are appropriate for the type of business they are in. On Monday 16th March the government issued advice asking people to start working from home where they possibly can. You can view Boris Johnson's statement here.

Employees are entitled to sick leave, so organisations should ensure employees are clear on their absence policy. Self-isolation seems to be a clear message for those returning from high-risk countries and for those experiencing flu-like symptoms after returning from a number of other affected countries. With the number of cases of Coronavirus in the UK increasing government guidelines state that 'if you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, do not leave your home for 7 days from when your symptoms started'. Employees need to communicate with their manager and keep them informed of their situation so any questions regarding coming into work or pay can be discussed. Many organisations are turning to homeworking to keep operations going and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in his address to the nation reminded people to only travel to and from work where working from home was not possible.

ACAS have produced Coronavirus advice for employers and employees, which includes sickness and absence procedures as well as what to do if someone with Coronavirus comes into work. 

Here at iHASCO, we are clear on our infection control procedures. We have posters up reminding staff of good hand and respiratory hygiene in common areas. We have plenty of hand sanitiser available around every office area and plenty of hand washing facilities with liquid antibacterial hand soap and hand driers. Disposable hand towels and tissues are readily available and rubbish bins are placed proportionally around our office (and are emptied frequently following correct procedures). Areas are cleaned daily, such as kitchen surfaces, desks and tables. Managers are aware of sickness policies and can discuss any concerns employees may have regarding the threat of the Coronavirus. Plus all of our employees have watched our Coronavirus awareness video. We are now all embarking on a temporary office set up where all staff are working from home. When we return to the office we will still take infection prevention and control measures seriously, as it is good practice.

With news breaking every day it is difficult to always know the true extent of what you are reading about Coronavirus. Some stories induce fear and widespread panic but it is important to not panic, yet we should remain vigilant. 

As a trusted provider of eLearning we hope that this information has provided consolidated, practical advice to raise awareness of what Coronavirus is, what to do if you’re showing symptoms, and how to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. We’ll be regularly updating this blog and our resource page with all the latest developments regarding Coronavirus with the hope that we can do our bit to educate the public and contribute to minimising the risks of it spreading further. 

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