Coronavirus: Employers urged to ramp up safety measures

'You're no safer because you are in a work environment versus any other environment,' CMO warns workers.
Coronavirus: Employers urged to ramp up safety measures
A member of the public wearing a face mask leaving a store in Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

Health chiefs have warned that employers must ramp up Covid-19 safety measures following outbreaks in supermarkets, fast food outlets, and at least 20 cases linked to an outbreak on one Dublin construction site. 

However, there are signs that there could be a breakthrough in combatting the disease as two early-stage vaccine trials have shown promising initial results. 

A trial of more than 1,000 healthy adults in Britain found a potential vaccine is safe and induces an immune reaction. 

Carried out by scientists at the University of Oxford, the early-stage trial found that the jab could provide double protection against coronavirus and causes few side effects.

Should the vaccine prove successful, it can be manufactured on a large scale. Separately, a Chinese phase-two trial has also found a potential vaccine that is safe and induces an immune response. 

These early, positive results are very welcome, according to Dr Ronan Glynn, the acting chief medical officer.

The level of research around Covid-19 in general, and in relation to new therapies and vaccines, is at an “unprecedented” scale, according to Dr Glynn.

“We have never seen so much happening so quickly in relation to a disease. I would be hopeful that we will have therapeutics, and that we will have a vaccine, and hopefully it won’t be years away.” 

Typically it takes from five to 10 years to develop a vaccine at a minimum, he added.

“Given the global effort, we’d hope to have something much sooner than that.” 

Ireland will ensure it has access to a vaccine supply by partnering with European member states and procure as one, he added. 

A further six cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, and no further deaths linked to Covid-19 were reported to the Department of Health. 

However, the possibility of a second wave here cannot be ruled out, and businesses are being urged to put the safety of staff and customers first. 

The warning comes as a construction site in Dublin City centre closed temporarily, after a number of workers tested positive for Covid-19

Dr Glynn confirmed that 20 cases so far have been linked to the outbreak.  

Shops, services, and supermarkets are the new front line, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). 

In recent weeks, outbreaks of the virus have been reported in a range of workplaces, including construction sites, supermarkets and fast-food outlets. 

“It does not take much at all for this disease to spread," Dr Glynn said. "It can spread through contact, or by being in close proximity to someone.” 

“The message to employers is to look again at your protocols, look again at the Return To Work Safely Protocol.”

Businesses went to great lengths to be compliant around reopening, he said.

“It’s understandable if that compliance has dropped off," he said. 

"Now is the time to look again, ramp up your measures again, and ensure that your employees and customers are being kept as safe as possible.”

Anecdotally, there are still people who are not wearing face coverings in shops, or on public transport, or who are not maintaining physical distancing, he said. 

"Workers need to physically distance. You're no safer because you are in a work environment versus any other environment." 

As the pandemic continues to accelerate worldwide, the NPHET is strongly advising people not to travel abroad, despite the expected publishing of a 'green list' shortly for essential travel.

More than 250,000 new cases of the virus were confirmed globally on Saturday. 

“We are in a good place here in this country," Dr Glynn said. 

"The more movement there is, the higher the likelihood of an issue arising again. That includes movement within the country.” 

“From a doctor’s perspective, from a public health perspective, from the perspective of our healthcare workers all around the country, who are exhausted, we’re asking people, for this year, not to travel abroad.”

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