Covid19 risk: What can apartments, PGs do?

KEEPING APARTMENTS SAFE FROM CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

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While the Indian government has shared information on precautions and preventive measures to tackle the Covid virus pandemic, there are specific actions that communities with residents living close to each other can take.


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Here is an FAQ to address questions from apartments, paying guest accommodations, and group housing quarters:

  • What care should security personnel and housekeeping staff take?

For the safety of security personnel who interact with a large number of visitors, apartments should ensure they wear masks and have access to soap/water and sanitiser solutions. Public health officials advise that the elevator should be operated only by one security person as elevator buttons are difficult to sanitise. In case of absence of an operator, it is suggested that people take the staircase.

Building security personnel can also advise visitors on respiratory hygiene (cough/sneeze into upper sleeve or using a handkerchief or mask for the same), washing hands often with a soap or hand wash solution. Posters with awareness materials can be displayed at entrances.

Posters to create awareness are available at Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: mohfw.gov.in

Posters from Karnataka govt:

karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/coronavirus-poster-info-english.jpeg

karunadu.karnataka.gov.in/hfw/kannada/nCovDocs/coronavirus-poster-info-kannada.jpeg

Housekeeping staff can be instructed to wipe frequently contacted surfaces such as doorknobs, taps and handrails with a disinfectant: three per cent glutaraldehyde (products like Lizol). Biometric devices if any, must be avoided for the moment.

Non-essential staff can be given off, to minimise contacts.

  • What is social distancing? When and how to practice it?

Social distancing is maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others, especially anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Droplets that may contain virus are sprayed when a person coughs/sneezes. If a person is too close, they can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

  • What to do if one exhibits symptoms typical to Covids19 infection?

Visit the nearest government hospital or call State helpline number or Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s 24X7 helpline at 011-23978046. While visiting the hospital, the individual is advised to wear a three-layer mask/cloth to cover your mouth and nose.

  • How do we sanitise or fumigate common areas?

The best way to surface clean (or disinfect) is by using three per cent glutaraldehyde. According to doctors, fumigation on a mass scale is a real challenge and is unnecessary.

  • What is the advice for domestic help (who may work in multiple houses) 

Every citizen is advised to follow the same hygiene practices – wash hands with soap frequently.

Health department officials say that house help are unlikely to be affected by the virus if they work in multiple houses where there are no suspected symptoms/cases. However, domestic help and caretakers can wear masks and follow sanitisation procedures, if they tend to sick persons. If the person shows any of the symptoms, doctor consultation is mandatory and they should stay at home for three days.

  • How can we support residents who need to quarantine themselves?

For now, self quarantine is mandated for people who have a history of travelling to the 12 countries. If a person wants to quarantine him/herself, the guidelines of Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare states that s/he should stay in a well-ventilated single-room preferably with an attached/separate toilet. If another family member needs to stay in the same room, it’s advisable to maintain a distance of at least one metre between the two.

There are additional guidelines released by the Ministry and can be viewed here.

If the quarantined person becomes symptomatic, his/her close contacts will be home quarantined (for 14 days). S/he will be followed up for an additional 14 days or till the report of such case turns out negative on lab testing.

Here are a few tips to be followed while a person is quarantined:

  • Wash hand as often thoroughly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid sharing household items, e.g. dishes, drinking glasses, or other items with other people at home.
  • Wear a mask at all times. The mask should be changed every 6-8 hours or while they cough/sneeze and disposed of. Disposable masks are never to be reused. Masks used by patients / close contacts during home care should be disinfected using ordinary bleach solution (5%) or sodium hypochlorite solution (1%) and then disposed of either by burning or deep burial. Used masks should be considered as potentially infected. More information on masks here.
  • If symptoms appear (cough/fever/difficulty in breathing), he/she should immediately inform the nearest health centre or call 011-23978046.

If any quarantined person requires support with essentials, provisions can be dropped off at the doorstep with necessary precautions – maintaining one-metre distance, using a tissue/kerchief while coughing or sneezing and sanitising after visiting the place.

One can use masks for home quarantine if there are elderly or those with an immunocompromised condition – this includes diabetes – and/or pregnant women. Security personnel, especially those who are older and have comorbidities will benefit from wearing a mask since their contact rate is high. Smaller apartments often hire older men to man the security post.

– Dr Rifa Khan, Epidemiologist

  • What about functions and other events in common areas?

Experts across the globe have recommended that mass gatherings be avoided, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 novel coronavirus disease. Many apartments have already closed club houses and party halls.

  • Is swimming in the pool safe? 

Coronavirus is an emerging disease and doctors have not been able to find out if the organism can survive in water. Experts say that swimming in a pool which is disinfected as per due process is safe, but suggest that people avoid swimming. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Dublin, recommends that the pools be maintained of a free chlorine residual of at least 1.0 mg/l (the quantity varies depending upon the pool type and the disinfectant used). HPSC’s scientific justification behind disinfecting pools can be found here.

Bengaluru Apartment Federation (BAF) suggests several recommended steps for apartment associations. They include:

  • Educate residents and staff on preventive measures. Advise them to not neglect any symptoms and visit the doctor
  • Organise talks by local/ residents doctors on preventive measures
  • Keep any sanitizers/soaps in common areas
  • If any cases are found, please cooperate with health department authorities on their investigation

[This article has been based on inputs from Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Director Dr K Kolandaswamy, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) Dean’s Office and the websites of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt of India, and the World Health Organization.]

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