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

Washing hands thoroughly

Last updated: 27/02/20

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 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 (coming soon)

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.

Easy access to this free 10-minute online resource will be provided via our website and YouTube.

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 or have travelled recently

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. 

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, 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, avoid contact with others. Call 111 and explain your symptoms. If you’ve travelled recently, you should tell the operator where you’ve been.

What to do if you’ve travelled recently

You need to stay indoors and call 111 if:

  1. You ARE showing symptoms (high temperature, shortness of breath, cough) and have been to any of the following places in the last 14 days: Mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Republic of Korea, or Malaysia
  2. You ARE showing symptoms and you’ve been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Italy (north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini) since 19th February
  3. If you have been to Wuhan or Hubei Province in China in the last 14 days whether you are showing symptoms or not
  4. If you have been to Iran, areas of northern Italy in lockdown or 'special care zone' areas in South Korea since 19th February, whether you are showing symptoms or not

If you’re in Northern Ireland you should call 0300 200 7885 and if you’re in Scotland phone your GP, or 111 if it’s out of hours.

Treatment of Coronavirus

If there's a chance you could have Coronavirus, you may be asked to isolate yourself which means, that for 14 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.

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’s frightening, the risk to individuals in the UK is currently low, but following the advice above can help reduce the possible spread of infection.

It’s important to remember 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. Coronaviruses can come in mild forms - much like the common cold and the flu.

Anyone concerned they have symptoms must continue to use NHS 111 as their first point of contact for advice. 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’.

There are 5 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 two patients who tested positive for Coronavirus.

With further outbreaks of Coronavirus in Iran, Northern Italy and two South Korean cities, advice from the government has already been updated. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast ‘those who have been to northern Italy - north of Pisa - if they have flu-like symptoms should self-isolate’. ‘If people have been to affected areas that the Italian government have quarantined then they should self-isolate whether or not they have symptoms.’

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.

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. There has also been talk of providing home testing and a countrywide public information campaign to provide advice regarding the Coronavirus.

The UK’s response to the threat of Coronavirus is one of precaution and the government are seen to be acting in the best interests of the public. 

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 exact impact of the Coronavirus remains unknown. But what about those that already have flights and travel scheduled or still want to go ahead with plans of visiting friends and family or booking that holiday? 

- 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. In light of the Coronavirus, there are certain recommendations in place for those wishing to travel to destinations that have already been directly impacted.  Currently travel to Hubei province, China, is not recommended and only essential travel is advised to mainland China and Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea as well as some locations in Italy.

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. It is also worth noting that some airports in Asia have introduced screening procedures such as temperature checks and travel history, on arrival. 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.

It is important to remember that travel to the vast majority of destinations have no restrictions or recommendations in place. However, 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?

Whilst the full impact of the Coronavirus remains unknown it is sensible for schools and workplaces to encourage good personal hygiene through posters and resources, notices, emails and discussions. Being prepared and ready means having a plan in place regarding how to respond to an outbreak of Coronavirus at work or school, to 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 has produced guidelines for schools to handle issues relating to the possible outbreak of Coronavirus or if pupils and their families have returned from high risk areas. It addresses issues such as what to do if a pupil is suspected of having Coronavirus and how to handle waste, such as tissues in bins. There are also resources to teach children good respiratory and hand hygiene.

With confusion among schools regarding the guidelines of Coronavirus, the government has sent a clear message that schools should remain open. Many pupils and staff from schools across the UK have returned from half term skiing trips in Northern Italy resulting in headteachers making the decision to close schools, whilst others have told those suffering from mild flu symptoms to stay home and self-quarantine. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs in the commons 'Our goal here is to try to keep schools open wherever we can so long as that protects the public. In fact, our wider goal is to have the minimum disruption, social and economic and indeed to the NHS subject to keeping the public safe.'

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. 

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. 

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. 

Employees are obviously 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 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 overreact, yet we should remain vigilant. If cases in Britain begin to escalate there will be a wider plan for the UK.

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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