Bavita Gopaulchan

Unless an entire building was exposed to a COVID-19 patient, there is no need to shut it down.

This is the view of Chief Executive Officer of the Employers Consultative Association (ECA) Stephanie Fingal, who suggested companies should sanitize based on the size of the building in which they operate and their ability to properly trace the infected employee’s contacts within the organization.

“For instance, if you occupy a very large building and a worker in a particular room might have used the ground floor or a particular office and nobody else from the top floor would have been exposed, you might have to sanitize the downstairs,” she told Guardian Media during an interview yesterday.

There have been concerns from the public over the refusal of some entities to shut down the entire building for sanitization, placing other employees at risk of contracting the virus.

However, Fingal stressed that preventing spread within a company was a two-fold approach with both the employees and employers having a part to play.

In the first instance, she said the staff must ensure they are practising social distancing and wearing their face masks while employers must ensure attendance registers are properly updated in the event contact tracing is needed.

“Where you have somebody testing positive you would be able to trace who would have been in contact with whom and who was in the lunchroom and things like that,” she explained.

The ECA CEO added, “You have to understand that shutting business down, we have experienced financial fallout from that and while people say better you stay alive than you die getting salaries, the reality is people need money to live.”

Given that the virus is only transmitted via direct contact, Virologist Dr Christopher Oura shared the view that companies do not need to shut down entirely.

He said, “If you can identify where that person has been, physically been and you can sanitize and disinfect the areas where they have been, you should significantly reduce the risk so there is no need I think in that kind of situation to remove everybody from the building.”

Fingal said while companies will be expected to inform their staff of a positive COVID-19 case, it is also expected that the employee’s identity will be withheld. However, she noted this may be difficult as other members of staff, through a process of elimination, will be able to determine who the infected person is.

Guardian Media reached out to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh for clarification on the guidelines for companies when there is a positive case. However, he told us a statement will be prepared for all media houses.