Social distancing rules have been announced by the government to stop the spread of coronavirus. But implementation of the rules is what matters the most.
--By Tamish Giri
On June 10, the cabinet meeting of the ministers finally decided to ease the lockdown by allowing the market and workplaces to open partially. The decision allows private vehicles to ply on roads, shops including departmental stores to operate fully and restaurants to restart delivery and take away services after 80 days of unprecedented lockdown. In the meantime, the government has also directed prevention measures (social distancing) for the public to follow while relaxing the lockdown to control the coronavirus from spreading.
Under this, banks and financial institutions and to operate at full capacity during a press meet held at Singha Durbar. The government also decided to open all governmental services, allowing civil servants to work on two shifts. However, flight operations, both domestic and international, were postponed until July 4 (except for certain emergency flights).
Dr Dipendra Raman Singh, director general of Department of Health informs that the ministry has recently drafted a standard operating procedure for social distancing to stop the virus from spreading. “We have made an action plan and guidelines on social distancing measures to be implemented in offices, factories and other workplaces to ease the lockdown and to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection. Social distancing, use of mask and sanitisation (SMS) as well as washing hand thoroughly are highly encouraged, “he informs.
Social distancing has been identified as a key policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by maintaining physical distance and reducing social interactions by many public health experts. Various studies conclude that it results in slowing the transmission and the growth rate of infections to avoid overburdening healthcare systems—an approach widely known as flattening the curve.
Preventing the further spread of COVID-19, and necessary public health measures, along with adherence to new practices and institutional as well as community vigilance are important, informs Dr Jajeshwor Gautam, spokesperson for Health and Population Ministry. “If all these aspects are taken forward with due diligence, the will be safe and organised,” he adds.
The ministry has requested institutions to mandatorily check the body temperature of all the employees while entering the office premises using an infrared thermometer. “Individuals with body temperature exceeding 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not be allowed to work and should be isolated for proper rest,” reads a ministry notice.
Workplaces are highly encouraged to use face-recognition devices for employee attendance and to disinfect surfaces such as door handles, tables and machinery, among others, with regular human interventions. Similarly, workplaces are requested to allocate sufficient water, soap, and hand sanitisers.
Workplace Sanitation and Disinfection
Nepal Business Initiative (NBI), a non-profit private sector organisation, has suggested regular and systematic cleaning of workplaces is crucial for increasing safety against the pathogen.
“Remember not only to clean with plain water but also to use regular pesticides for disinfection, it is important to be done,” the Covid-19 Preparedness Guidebook published by NBI suggests.
Likewise, offices are encouraged to have open windows and doors in the workplace to allow adequate natural air to circulate. The guidebook discourages the use of cluttered rooms and air conditioning.
Cleaning staff should be allocated with personal safety equipment (masks, boots, aprons, gloves, hats) as well as additional incentives to maintain hygiene. Maintaining crowd control and physical distance within the workplace is equally important. “People are requested to maintain at least a two-meter distance. Physical barriers should be implemented wherever possible, banning entry to unnecessary customers and tall plastic or glass should be used in service places to avoid unwanted interventions,” NBI has said.
Offices are urged to look for an alternative arrangement (example: some people move to meeting halls or other less used places, work from home, tall glass making partitions or cabins, etc.) if there is a structure where many people work in the same room, to reduce human circulation.
“Allow entry to only those who are essential, human movement should be minimised. Similarly, the use of elevators must be discouraged,” the guidebook adds.
Hotels, restaurants, and canteens, in high-risk areas, are allowed to only provide takeaway and delivery services. Restaurants and cafeterias situated in low-risk zones should make seating arrangements with a gap of two meters per individual. The kitchen staff should not overcrowd while working and should also work to maintain a gap of two meters from each other. Utensils should be washed thoroughly prior to and after serving the customer. Lastly, the hotel should not allow the customer to share rooms except for family and close friends.
Similarly, essential services institutions have been highly encouraged to utilise virtual platforms as much as possible for continuity of service. Workers in the healthcare sector, beauty parlours, salons, among others that require physical contact with customers, have to mandatorily wear face mask, gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap water while working. Health workers while performing general check-ups must use a surgical mask and KN95 mask during ENT check-up.
Offices are required to reveal the personal details of the service recipient and mandatorily note the cell and telephone regularly. Mandatory use of masks and sanitiser in public transport, along with maintaining distances between the passengers is also to be followed.