Staff who are feeling unwell should not report to work and should seek medical advice. However, in the event that a food worker becomes unwell in the workplace with typical symptoms of COVID-19, they should be removed to an area 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. Arrangements should be made for the unwell employee to be removed quickly from the food premise.
The employee who is unwell should follow national guidelines for reporting cases/suspect cases of COVID-19. Whilst they wait for medical advice or to be sent home, they should they should wear masks and avoid any contact with other employees. 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 and then dispose of the tissue in a bin. If they do not have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow. If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom, if available.
All surfaces that the infected employee has come into contact with must be cleaned, including all surfaces and objects which are visibly contaminated with body fluids/respiratory secretions, and all potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as toilets, door handles and telephones. Alcohol based sanitizers/surface disinfectants should be used for cleaning purposes. In general, alcohol-based disinfectants (ethanol, propan-2-ol, propan-1-ol) have been shown to significantly reduce infectivity of enveloped viruses like COVID-19 virus, in concentrations of 70-80%. Common disinfectants with active ingredients based on quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATS) and chlorine would also have viricidal properties. All staff should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.
If an employee is confirmed as a case of COVID-19 it will be necessary to notify all close contacts of the infected employee so they too can take measures to minimize further risk of spread. WHO definitions of a contact of a COVID-19 case can be found here. Examples of contacts in the food businesses could include any employee who was in face-to-face or physical (i.e., touching) contact; any employee who was within 1 meter with the confirmed case; anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids without adequate PPE (e.g. gloves, overalls, protective clothing); employees in the same working team or workgroup as the confirmed case, and any employee living in the same household as a confirmed case.
WHO recommends that contacts be quarantined for 14 days from the last point of exposure to the confirmed case. At a minimum, staff who have had close contact with the infected employee should be asked to stay at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case and practice physical distancing. If they become unwell at any time within their 14-day isolation period and they test positive for COVID-19, they will become a confirmed case, and should be managed as such.
Staff who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case should continue taking the usual precautions and attend work as usual. Organizing employees into small teams or workgroups will help to minimize disruption to work processes in the event of an employee reporting sick with symptoms of COVID-19. Closure of the workplace is not recommended after completion of required disinfection operations.
For more information on contacts of COVID-19 confirmed cases, see WHO guidance on surveillance and case definitions.