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Be Smart About South Africa

Keeping Safe When Visiting Public Facilities During COVID-19

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Visiting a public facility whether to renew a driver’s or vehicle license, applying for an ID or having to go inside a bank is not an experience anyone looks forward to on a normal day. Added to the inevitable queues and numerous forms one has to contend with is the possibility of contracting COVID19 which fuels anxiety, not only for visitors to these facilities but for employees as well.  

In his most recent speech delivered on Sunday 30 May 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke of the increase in the infection rate which was a 31 percent increase on the previous week. The cause for the surge in infections was due to an increase in social gatherings and the public’s complacency and negligence in observing essential health protocols, he stated.

Accessing these facilities for essential services at some point is unavoidable. Emma Corder managing director of industrial cleaning products company Industroclean says keeping public spaces clean and safe must be a “team effort”. The responsibility cannot just rest on the shoulders of management of these buildings; members of the public have a part to play too she believes.

With the heightened awareness and demand for cleanliness continuing to shape public life, the role of Facility Managers of public buildings, Building Managers and cleaning staff should include targeting functional and psychological aspects of cleaning and striking a balance between communicating hygiene safety and enhancing visitor experience.  

Reduced visitor numbers still require scheduled or increased cleaning routines due to COVID19 and building access and visitor screening processes need to be consistent. Cleaning staff must determine what needs to be cleaned and how areas will be disinfected. Surfaces such as tables, chairs, counter tops and screens should be cleaned at least twice a day

Consider long-term changes to practices and procedures which could include placing a waterproof covering on high contact, porous surfaces such as chairs and armrests or replace these with plastic chairs that are easier to clean. Some internal doors could be left open to limit touching by multiple people. The transparent waterproof cover on payment device keypads should be cleaned frequently.

Routine application of disinfectant by spraying is not recommended. The practice is ineffective as the presence of dirt inactivates the disinfectant. Disinfectant should be applied via a cloth soaked in the disinfectant after surfaces have been cleaned with soap and water or a detergent.  Evaluate air ventilation and circulation systems to improve indoor air quality and keep windows open, even in the colder weather.

For outdoor environments especially where visitors queue for long periods, spraying streets and sidewalks with disinfectant is not advised. These areas are not considered routes of infection for COVID19 and the practice could in fact be noxious and cause respiratory or skin damage.

Chemical spraying of personnel, visitors or equipment must be avoided,” Corder adds.

Visitors to these facilities also need to take personal responsibility for their health and safety and must adhere to COVID 19regulations at all times. They need to remember that reduced staff on site and correct screening processes will equate to longer queuing time but should practice patience and follow physical distancing measures and floor markings. While hand sanitiser is readily available on entry at most building entrances, carrying your own allows you to sanitize your hands at regular intervals.

Other simple ways in which you can keep your safety and that of others top of mind is to:

·         Bring your own pen to avoid touching an item used by staff and other visitors

·         Consider whether you need to touch certain surfaces such as counter tops, railings and other support surfaces and chairs, specifically the armrests

·         Always wear a mask and try to eat once you reach home

·         Avoid water coolers and bring your own water in a bottle

·         On your return home, wash hands before touching any surfaces or people.

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