Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses with some causing less-severe disease, such as the common cold, and others more severe disease such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Some transmit easily from person to person, while others do not.

The Division of Healthcare Management and Occupational Safety and Health (DHMOSH) recommends the following key preventive measures against COVID-19.

1. Take steps to prevent illness with respiratory pathogens:

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections such as with fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
  • Perform frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  • Individuals with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette including:
    • Stay at home if you are sick;
    • Maintain your distance from others;
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing;
    • Use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use;
    • Perform hand hygiene (e.g., hand washing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub, or antiseptic handwash) after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.
  • Avoid close contact and unprotected with live or dead farm or wild animals.
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
  • Preliminary information suggests that older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease from this virus.

2. Pay attention to your health during your travel to outbreak locations and after you leave.

  • Seek medical care immediately if you begin to develop fever or respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath or cough.  Remember to share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
  • You should make every effort to inform the medical clinic by telephone about your condition prior to presenting in person there.

3. Keep up to date with local health advice before and during your travel

  • For all travelers, while WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on countries with COVID-19, please be aware that local authorities may begin to implement travel restrictions and health screening measures for travelers entering or exiting the country.  All UN personnel should check with the destination countries’ embassy, consulate or Ministry of Health and keep up to date with local health advice before and during your travel. You should also comply with any screening measures put in place by local authorities.
  • For the latest available on travel restrictions, please visit the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel News page.
    • It is important to caveat that this information is only as reported to IATA by the countries and may not reflect the absolute latest information. Moreover, it is general in sense and does not provide all of the specific details (e.g. the US restrictions lists by IATA do not go into the level of details that was promulgated by the State department as to which visa classes are exempt). Travelers should still ensure that they check with the relevant authorities for any countries they plan to travel to and ensure that they would not face any issues as it relates to their specific situation.

4. Read the following guidance from the United Nations Medical Directors  

5. Duty station Administrators and Managers should refer to the files below:

6. Know the facts and dispel the myths about the COVID-19 from the WHO 

7. Answers to some UN specific questions below:

For any UN personnel who are free of symptoms, and returning from China, managers are encouraged to exercise flexibility in terms of using remote working arrangements for staff in these situations who would like to limit their contact with others and work from home for 14 days post travel.

Individuals returning from areas of outbreaks should be advised to review our health advisory on this Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page so that you have awareness about the disease. You should monitor yourself daily for signs of fever, respiratory symptoms (e.g. breathing difficulties, cough) and know where to seek medical attention if you are aware of any symptoms within yourself. You should monitor yourself for at least 14 days after your travel.

According to the WHO, for individuals without respiratory symptoms, a medical mask is not required, as no evidence is available on its usefulness to protect non-sick persons.

However, masks might be worn in some countries according to local cultural habits. If masks are used, best practices should be followed on how wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene action after removal. For more information, visit the WHO guidance on use of masks in the community.

The WHO does not recommend and advises against the application of any travel restrictions based on the information currently available on COVID-19.

Please be aware that local authorities may begin to implement travel restrictions and health screening measures for travelers entering or exiting the country. All UN personnel who are planning to travel should check with the destination countries’ embassy, consulate or Ministry of Health and keep up to date with local health advice before and during you travel. You should also comply with any screening measures put in place by local authorities.

As the outbreak evolves, it can be difficult to predict the situation globally and it would be prudent to make contingency arrangements should the need arise. Feel free to consult us further at dos-dhmosh-public-health@un.org as needed.

The risk of contracting COVID-19 from imports shipped from China is low, based primarily on its similarity to SARS and MERS. In general, because of the poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces (in the range of hours), there is likely a very low, if any, risk of spread from products of packaging that is shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.
For meetings during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Division of Healthcare Management and Occupational Safety and Health (DHMOSH) has prepared the following guidelines for:
  • You should limit the movement around the house of the individual who is ill and minimize shared space.
  • Ensure shared spaces like bathrooms and the kitchen are well ventilated, one way to do this is by keeping the windows open.Clean and disinfect the bathroom and toilet surface at least once a day using regular household soap or detergent for cleaning and then disinfecting with regular household disinfectant containing 0.5% sodium hypochlorite.
  • Do not forget the importance of hand hygiene with alcohol based handrub or soap and water (if hands are visibly soiled).
  • Whenever possible household members should stay in a different room or maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from the ill person.
  • When helping care for the sick individual, wear a tightly fitted medical/surgical mask that covers your nose and mouth when in the same room as the affected individual. Make sure you are careful not to touch your mask. If your mask gets wet or dirty, it should be replaced. When removing a mask, it is important to throw it away and perform hand hygiene. Dispose of any material with respiratory secretions immediately after use.
  • Both the ill individual and you as the caregiver should perform hand hygiene after contact with respiratory secretions.

 

8. Guidance specific to UN Healthcare workers can be found at Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Information for UN Healthcare staff 

The latest information from WHO can be found at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

For any questions, please contact dos-dhmosh-public-health@un.org.