It is critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe by:

  • Making their workplaces as safe as possible if working from home is not possible
  • Ensuring that workers self-isolate if they have been asked to do so
  • Supporting their workers when in isolation

Although this may seem disruptive for businesses, it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace and far less disruptive than further social and economic restrictions.

Do I need a Rapid point of care antibody–based test?

For most patients, more severe symptoms develop 5-10 days after the first symptoms. Thus any data on test sensitivity generated in inpatients or patients presenting to emergency departments is not generalizable to employees with no or mild symptoms.

For this reason rapid antibody based tests should not be performed on a routine basis.

Why test employees and what test should be used?

The reasons for testing of symptomatic employees are:

  1. To prevent the spread of the virus at the workplace and in the community
  2. To help those who may develop moderate to severe COVD-19

The currently recommended test recommended by WHO consists of:

  • A nasopharyngeal swab
  • A pharyngeal swab
  • A nose swab

SARS-CoV-2 tests is only done if the result will change or help with decision-making.

Who should be tested?

Employees with the following symptoms should be offered testing:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, muscle ache, joint pains)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Loss of smell and/or taste is a clear indicator of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Any employee with these symptoms should be assumed Covid positive, therefore a test is not necessary.

Employees who have a household member with a confirmed positive SARS-CoV-2 test who have any of the above symptoms within 14 days of the household member testing positive should also be assumed to have  the Covid infection. Those employees do not need a test for confirmation and should be instructed to self-isolate.

If the SARS-CoV-2 test is negative and the symptoms have subsided employees can return to work.

Those assumed Covid positive can return to work 10 days after symptom onset. Those with a positive PCR can return 10 days after the test was taken (if clinically fit to work).

Should I close the business or workplace?

Thorough and frequent cleaning is crucial for to prevent infection. A business does not need to be closed because an employee tests positive). Rather than temporarily shutting a business for deep cleaning, cleaning needs to be enhanced continuously and ensuring the correct equipment and disinfectant is used.

If however, there is an increased number of SAR-CoV-2 infections in a workplace, known as a cluster, screening of asymptomatic individuals may be considered to determine the extend of the problem. A review of the infection prevention and control procedures should be undertaken to investigate any breaches of procedures or transmission hotspots.

Tracking and Tracing contacts of employees who test positive for SARS-CoV-2

An employee is considered a significant SARS-CoV-2 contact if they answer “Yes” to all of the following details regarding the contact with a colleague who tested SARS-CoV-2 positive or is assumed SARS-CoV-2

Did you have:

Less than 15min of contact  
Face-to-face contact  
Contact at a distance of less than 1m  
Contact in a closed room  
Contact 2 days before or up to 10 days after the person tested positive for Covid or had suggestive symptoms?  

If the employee answers “Yes” to all of these questions and both parties (the employee in questions and the employee infected with SARS-CoV-2) did not wear masks covering their noses, then the employee in question should be considered a moderate risk contact. They should be asked to quarantine for 14 days.