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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Hazard Related Topics

COVID-19 is often referred to as Coronavirus, but it has other names such as 2019 novel coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2 and 019-nCoV. It is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread on close contact and is considered particularly catastrophic for those in high risk or vulnerable groups, for example the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions or those recovering from heart surgery, cancer treatment etc.

The symptoms include a high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back. Or if you have a new and continuous cough - this means coughing a lot, for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual). Obviously, these symptoms are similar to a cold virus therefore you need to check if you have Coronavirus by calling the NHS. There has been a high death toll throughout the world from COVID-19 and it had been defined as a 'Global Pandemic' by the World Health Organisation.

Some people do have a natural immunity, and many others have come out of the other end successfully but have stated the symptoms varied from being 'quite mild' through to those needing help with breathing via the use of Ventilators.

There is a measure that the Government are using to realise the reproduction rate of the virus, it is called the reproduction number or simply the 'R value'. So, what is R? The reproduction number is a way of rating a disease's ability to spread. It's the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to, on average. So, for example, Measles has one of the highest numbers in town with a reproduction number of 15 in populations without immunity. It can cause explosive outbreaks. COVID-19 has a reproduction number of about three, but estimates do vary.

Why is a number above 'one' dangerous? If the reproduction number is higher than one, then the number of cases increases exponentially - it snowballs. But if the number is lower, the disease will eventually peter out as not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.

To help stop and to control the spread of the virus the UK government introduced what was termed as 'lockdown', where they advised those in the vulnerable category to totally 'isolate'. Additionally, at the start of lockdown, workers were advised to stay at home to work if possible and if they couldn't work from home, they were told to stay at home regardless. However, it was hoped that these measures would slowly returned things to normal. Nevertheless, we were all required to carry out Social Distancing measures and to continue to wash our hands to limit the spread of the virus.

Those that continued to work were called 'key workers' as the country needed them to continue to function. A key worker or critical worker is a public-sector or private-sector employee who is considered to provide an essential service. These Key Workers roles included Health & Social Care, Education & Childcare, Key Public Services, Local & National Government, Food & other necessary good, Public Safety and National Security, Transport, Utilities, communication and financial services. However, the UK Government did state that “If workers think they fall within the critical categories above they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service”.

Returning to work Post COVID-19

In planning returning to work post-COVID-19 employers were required to carry out a Return to Work Risk Assessment. This was to ensure that they covered all aspects of returning to work for their employees to ensure they can work in a safe environment doing their job role(s).

Additionally, the employers are advised to prepare a Phased Plan for returning to work. This plan needs to also consider the Law and current legislation.

Advice and Guidance

The UK Government and the NHS have lots of resources to help and provide information to everyone in regard to COVID-19/Coronavirus. We also have Practical Tips for those returning to work post COVID-19 available as another resource.