The government has issued guidance to care homes on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19, advising that facemasks do not need to be worn in residential care settings, stating they ‘only need to be worn by infected individuals when advised by a healthcare worker, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people’.
PHE recommends that the best way to reduce any risk of infection for anyone is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus, the government has said.
There are general principles anyone can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
washing your hands often – with soap and water, or use alcohol sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if handwashing facilities are not available – this is particularly important after taking public transport. Guidacne is available on hand washing
covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin. See Catch It, Bin It, Kill It
people who feel unwell should stay at home and should not attend work
employees should wash their hands:
- before leaving home
- on arrival at work
- after using the toilet
- after breaks and sporting activities
- before food preparation
- before eating any food, including snacks
- before leaving work
- on arrival at home
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
If staff, a member of the public or a care home resident becomes unwell in the workplace and has travelled to China or other affected countries, the unwell person should be removed to an area which is at least two metres away from other people.
The guidance states ‘If possible find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a shut door, such as a staff office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation’.
The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 from their mobile, or 999 if an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) and explain which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and outline their current symptoms. If the person affected is not able for any reason to call NHS 111 themselves then a staff member should call on their behalf.
Whilst they wait for advice from NHS 111 or an ambulance to arrive, they should remain at least two metres from other people. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag then throw the tissue in the bin. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available. This will apply only to the period of time while waiting for transport to hospital.
While a care home staff member or residents is waiting for results of a coronavirus test, there is no need to close the care home or send staff home. Even if someone is diagnosed with the disease, the Department of Health is not recommending that the care home close.
An assessment of each setting will be undertaken by PHE’s local Health Protection Team with the lead responsible person. Advice on the management of staff, members of the public or residents will be based on this assessment.
Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will be given by the Health Protection Team.
If a care worker or resident has contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, then they can get advice from the local Health Protection Team. Those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home or in their own room in a care or residential home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case and follow the home isolation advice sheet.
Cleaning the care home
In terms of cleaning the care home where there are confirmed cases of COVID-19, all surfaces that the person has come into contact with must be cleaned including:
- all surfaces and objects which are visibly contaminated with body fluids
- all potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as toilets, door handles, telephones
- clothing and linen used by the person should be set aside pending assessment of the person by a healthcare professional
Public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors) but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected.
All waste that has been in contact with the individual, including used tissues, continence pads and other items soiled with bodily fluids, should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied. The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied. It should be put in a safe place and marked for storage until the COVID-19 test result is available, which will be within 24 hours.
If the individual tests negative, this can be put in the normal waste. Laundry from the room of a possible case should be stored safely until the result of the test is known. If the individual tests positive, the local Health Protection Team will advise you what to do with the waste and laundry.
To view the guidance visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-social-or-community-care-and-residential-settings-on-covid-19/guidance-for-social-or-community-care-and-residential-settings-on-covid-19