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What to do if a confirmed or suspect case of COVID-19 is detected at your office

With Singapore currently having detected 81 confirmed cases of COVID-19, it is important for workplaces to be prepared with a contingency plan in case one of the employees is found to have or be a suspected case of the coronavirus. As such, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued an advisory of what employers need to do in this case, given that employees may come into regular contact with one another or business associates.

The advisory notes: "A person who has fever or symptoms like coughing and breathlessness may not be infected with COVID-19. However, he should be advised to consult a doctor as soon as possible. If the doctor has reason to suspect COVID-19 infection, the person will be referred for further tests and deemed to be a suspect case."

General advisory for employers in confirmed or suspected cases

Confirmed or suspected cases for employers may not always come in the form of employees - it could be other personnel employed by their suppliers or contractors. Once employers become aware of such a development, they are asked to:
  • Provide timely information to employees on latest developments;
  • Reassure employees and other relevant persons, e.g. customers, of the measures being taken to ensure their wellbeing at the workplace;
  • Show care and concern to persons who are either confirmed or suspected to have been infected with COVID-19; and
  • Coordinate with their supplier or contractor to manage their own employees, if applicable.

What to do if your office has a suspect case

If an employer is aware that someone at the workplace is a suspect case, the employer should immediately identify and engage other persons, including business associates, who may have come into close physical contact with the suspect case recently.

Employers should request their affected employees to:

  • Monitor their health, including doing temperature checks at least twice daily;
  • Adopt good personal hygiene; and
  • See a doctor immediately if they are unwell, and inform their supervisors or the HR department immediately.
  • They should stay at home on sick leave even if they feel that their symptoms are mild.
When updated of the outcome of the tests for the suspect case, the employer should also notify other employees of the outcome.

What to do if your office has a confirmed case

If someone at the workplace is a confirmed case, MOH’s contact tracing officers will engage the employer to identify any persons at the workplace, including business associates, who may have had close contacts with the confirmed case. Employers should cooperate with the contact tracing officers and provide them with the necessary assistance and support.

MOH’s contact tracing officers will assess who among such persons should be placed on quarantine. For employees who are not placed under quarantine, employers should still remind them of the measures outlined below:

  • Monitor their health, including doing temperature checks at least twice daily;
  • Adopt good personal hygiene; and
  • See a doctor immediately if they are unwell, and inform their supervisors or the HR department immediately.
Upon being notified of the confirmed case, employers should also adopt the following precautionary measures:
  • Immediately vacate and cordon-off the immediate section of the workplace premises where the confirmed case worked. There is no need to vacate the building or the whole floor if there had been no sustained and close contact with the confirmed case; and
  • Carry out a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of that section of the workplace premises. Guidance on cleaning and disinfection can be found here.
Some employees may not be able to remain physically at their workplaces if they have been asked to vacate their work stations or are pending assessment by MOH’s contact tracing officers. If it is not feasible for such employees to work from home, employers should exercise flexibility and treat such absences as paid hospitalisation leave or paid outpatient sick leave.

No matter what the situation, employers should regularly keep in touch with an employee who is a suspect or confirmed case or was placed on quarantine.

If the employee has used up his or her medical benefits provided for under the employment contract and/or collective agreement, employers should consider providing additional medical coverage and helping the employee tide over the period of possible financial hardship.

Photo / 123RF

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