More frequent cleaning, advising unwell customers to see doc among MOM's new guidelines to protect workers from coronavirus

Enhanced cleaning of premises is part of the new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Manpower, NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and its partners on Tuesday (Feb 4) issued a series of enhanced guidelines to protect workers from the coronavirus outbreak following the first cases of local transmission here.

They touch on three main areas: stepping up cleaning, dealing with customers and measures that individual employees can take.

Enhanced cleaning of premises is part of the new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, MOM, NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

Cleaning frequency should be stepped up in areas with high human contact, such as counters where customers are served and rooms where visitors are hosted.

The cleaning frequency of general public access areas such as lifts, handrails, pantries, toilets and bin areas should also be increased.

Workers and workplaces are further advised to adopt sanitation and hygiene advisories disseminated by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Companies have also been advised to establish clear guidelines for front-line staff on handling customers who are unwell.

The advisory said this could include advising customers who are visibly unwell to see a doctor, or asking them to reschedule their appointments or be served via alternate means such as tele-conferencing.

If, however, it is necessary to provide urgent services to customers who are unwell, companies should establish proper procedures to safeguard their staff and premises.

For example, front-line workers should wear surgical masks and serve unwell customers separately from other customers if possible.

Employees have a part to play as well, in observing good personal hygiene, avoiding close contact with people who are unwell, and staying away from the workplace and consulting a doctor if they are unwell.

"The intention of this new advisory is to provide guidance on what can be done at workplaces to preserve their cleanliness, and ensure the environment continues to be safe for workers to operate in," said Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam on Tuesday.

These guidelines come shortly after two employees at a Chinese health products shop in Lavender that caters to Chinese tour groups were confirmed to be infected with the virus.

Unlike previous cases, they did not have a recent travel history to China.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted that the virus may not necessarily be transmitted by direct contact with infected individuals.

"For example, a person who is ill might have been in contact with some of the merchandise... and the salesperson could have handled the material after that, and (if) he or she touches her face, her eyes and nose, she would have got it," he said, adding that the salesperson could have touched a contaminated surface as well.

Current evidence suggests that the likely modes of transmission are mainly through contact with droplets from infected individuals, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Tuesday.

This can take place directly or indirectly through hands that have touched these droplets or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, who is director of medical services at MOH, said the shop in Lavender will be inspected and cleaned by the relevant agencies.

Mr Kam said of the new guidelines: "There's obviously a very important role that individual workers can play. This coincides with the general advice we give to every Singaporean, every resident here, as to what they can do to prevent themselves from being more exposed to infection."

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