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A reader shares her experience, and we give you tips from a professional on handling Covid-19 cases in the office

A primary school teacher we spoke to, recently tested positive for Covid-19. She didn’t necessarily contract the virus at her school, but she had to share the result with her principal immediately, and then follow the necessary tracing and isolation procedures. This was her experience…

“We have all signed a declaration to inform the company that we would notify them should we test positive and if we have had close contact with a Covid-infected person. We have a specific protocol which is to be followed and every staff member has been encouraged to read it with understanding.

“My boss responded quite formally and took my result very seriously and told me they needed to now follow the correct protocol and procedures. The school’s response was professional and unbiased. My results were kept confidential in the best way possible.

“I experienced no stigma. However, another staff member told me that on her return to work, comments were made by other members of staff to avoid her as she could have had the virus because of our close contact. (She actually tested negative.)

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“I keep trying to think back to work out how I contracted the virus as I was quite pedantic about not getting infected. I wore a shield and a mask when I had to at work. I sanitised my hands whenever I could, after every paper I touched or surface.

“A child in my class tested positive. We both wore masks and I wore a shield AND a mask. We also kept a distance between each other, as I did with all learners. My doctor assured me there was very little chance that I contracted the virus from the child or from a surface. I believe it could have been a courier or delivery to our house. I will never really know.

“Our school is so efficient when it comes to having procedures in place. We walk through a santising station of chlorine dioxide, have our temperatures recorded daily, and we further have to sign a daily declaration that we are fit for work and we then sanitise our hands by dipping them into a diluted solution.”

We should not look at having a positive case as a disaster in the office but rather a chance to come together and still keep the wheel turning

Devan Moonsamy from the ICHAF Training Institute takes a look at how employers should respond when an employee tests positive for Covid19

South Africa is seeing a rapid increase in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. The surge in numbers this week are causing panic among many South Africans, as workplaces start to report infections – and some of us have even experienced the death of a colleague.

We have also seen the education unions calling on schools to remain closed to ensure that staff and learners are home as the numbers grow. As much as that might be a relief to parents and families of children and teachers, it is a concern to other industries who are seeing more and more people testing positive for the virus.

One of the biggest concerns that I have addressed previously is the stigma in the workplace around the virus. But what about how employees handle the news of a possible positive case of the virus?

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When an employee notifies you that they have the virus or have come into contact with someone who does, instead of spreading panic initiate a deep cleaning and sanitizing of the building.

This will allow you and the staff member’s time to be in isolation and then get tested should there be visible signs of the virus.

When this period is complete and staff are returning to the office ensure you have a great deal of social and physical distancing.

  • Create separate work spaces and spread people out all over the offices
  • Ensure that masks are worn at all times in the office
  • Provide sanitizers around the building and ensure that staff are aware that it must be used. Get the cleaning team to clean the offices every afternoon with proper care.
  • Provide regular information on steps that should be taken should someone feel like they have the virus.
  • We also should be mindful that this is flu season, so staff members who are showing signs of flu should be encouraged to stay home to prevent them from being exposed to more people with a strained immune system.

We have to accept that the virus is around and we can either take the steps and work with it or choose to close business and risk job loss.

At the same time, we need to understand the predicament our staff are in. We need to make them feel comfortable to talk to use about concerns they have around the virus. In fact if they choose to work from home and this is a possibility, we must be open to it.

We should not look at having a positive case as a disaster in the office but rather a chance to come together and still keep the wheel turning.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.