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Millions of non-essential workers are being allowed to return to work this week after an extraordinary 11-day enforced hibernation lockdown that shut down industrial and construction sectors as the Spanish Government sought to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Although experts have raised concerns that it is still too soon to lift these additional measures, the Government has issued a series of guidelines on how to reduce the risk of infection in the work-place, maintaining the recommendation that working from home is still the best option unless it is not possible to do so.

On Sunday Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told the nation that Spain was not yet ready for de-escalation and that confinement will continue, returning to the original measures implemented when the State of Alarm was implemented on March 14th. Thus, schools, bars, restaurants, cultural venues and leisure centres all remain closed and people should remain at home as much as possible. However the enforced hibernation implemented on March 30th has been lifted whilst protection measures have been increased, including the distribution of 10 million masks on public transport systems and the issue of a safety guide with recommendations to follow.

Experts are split on the decision. Some argue that it's a modest risk to lift the extreme confinement measures, that there are fewer people who can spread the virus than there were two weeks ago, whilst others have called the decision as 'premature' and warned that a lack of widespread testing means that de-escalation is going to happen without knowing how many people have been infected or how many people show no symptoms. However there is a general agreement that the public are now more aware of the measures needed to help reduce the spread of infection.

The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health include the following main recommendations:

Don't go to work if you have symptoms - Coughing, fever and difficulty in breathing are symptoms that could be associated with the Covid-19 disease and those who are concerned should ring the regional special hotline with is 900-300-555 for further instruction. You should not go to work until it has been confirmed that you are not a risk to yourself or others. In addition, anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive should stay at home for a minimum of 14 days to avoid spreading the infection.

Use private transport whenever possible - The use of a private form of transport such as motorcycle or bicycle to get to work - and even walking - helps to ensure that a 2 metre separation distance is maintained, minimising the risk of spreading the virus. A face mask is not necessary. If a private car is used, it should be cleaned regularly and no more than one person should be in the front and back seats.

Use face masks on public transport - Hygienic face masks UNE 0064-1 (UNE 0064-2 for children) should be worn during journeys on buses, the Metro or intercity train services. Bus drivers will be responsible for monitoring capacity to ensure that passengers respect distancing requirements. Face masks will be distributed on public transport.

Maintain two metre distance - Companies which serve the public should implement measures to minimum contact between clients and its staff, placing controls at entrances to ensure that the capacity is not exceeded and that the two-metre distance can be respected at all times. Online and card payments are preferred and partitions between clients and staff which can be easily cleaning and disinfected should be used whenever possible. Businesses must provide personal protection equipment (PPE) when risks cannot be avoided.

Set flexible hours - Companies should try and set more flexible working hours and stagger timetables to avoid large gatherings on public transport and when staff enter and leave the workplace as well as if the workspace does not allow a safe distance to be maintained during the  normal working day. In addition, clocking-in systems which use digital fingerprint systems should be suspended.

Use face masks when working around others - Face masks should be worn when working with other people.

Gloves for more exposed people - Companies should provide staff with enough PPE in their work means that they are more exposed to the novel coronavirus, especially gloves and face masks. These professions include doctors, nurses, cleaning staff and public-facing workers.

Medical service - All companies, regardless of their size, must clearly identify their medical service so that it can work quickly in collaboration with the public health system to intervene on the ground.

Hygiene recommendations - Companies must ventilate their facilities for more than five minutes for at least once a day. The temperature of the work place should be set between 23°c and 26°c. Air filters should be cleaned more frequently, soap dispensers, anti-bacterial gel and paper towels should be maintain in proper order and cleaning increased in all areas, especially on surfaces and door knobs, whilst tables and counter must be disinfected periodically. Workspaces should be cleaned after each worker's shift. All these jobs must be done with a face mask and disposable gloves.

Wash uniforms in hot water - Workers should wash their work clothes or uniform in a complete wash cycle at a temperature between 60°c and 90°c. These clothes should be taken off at the end of this shift and carried in a sealed bag to their normal laundry.

Source: El País
Date: Monday 13th April 2020





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