What to do if your business is linked to a COVID-19 case

Posted On November 17, 2020

We certainly have been blessed here in Mudgee, and in the rest of Australia, when we compare our COVID case numbers to the rest of the world. However, the recent cluster in Adelaide has shown that this is not going away anytime soon and so it is always best to be prepared.

Touch wood that we do not have any future cases here in Mudgee, but what do you need to do if a case is linked to your business? The following information from the NSW Government takes you through the steps you need to follow;

If a business is linked to a COVID-19 case

There are two ways a business might be informed of a COVID-19 link:

  • being notified by public health authorities
  • an employee or other contractor notifying that they have been diagnosed.

Once you have been notified of a COVID-19 link to your business:

  1. You will be put in contact with your local Public Health Unit.
  2. Your Public Health Unit will advise you on the type of contact tracing needed.
  3. You will be required to advise staff, visitors, contractors and customers of the situation.
  4. You will be informed of any infection control measures you need to take.

Businesses/premises do not necessarily have to close after a case has been notified. This will depend on

  • the premises being appropriately cleaned.
  • the Public Health Unit being satisfied that there is no ongoing risk
  • business access to available staff.

Finding out that a COVID-19 case has been linked to your organisation

Employers and business operators may become aware a case has been linked to them by:

  • being notified by public health authorities
  • an employee or other contractor notifying them that they have been diagnosed. 

The privacy and confidentiality of the person diagnosed must be maintained.

Employers or businesses with diagnosed employees, or otherwise concerned they may be linked to a COVID-19 case, should seek advice from their local Public Health Unit (PHU) by calling 1300 066 055.

If a COVID-19 case has been linked to your organisation, NSW Health public health authorities will conduct a risk assessment to consider the level of exposure and interaction.

Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment, cleaning of the workplace and/or some communications and media outreach may be required.

If a large number of people may have been exposed or it is difficult to individually identify all contacts, a generalised message will be broadcast stating that anyone who had attended the premises on a certain date would need to self-isolate.

What you need to do if a confirmed COVID-19 case has been linked to your organisation

  • Support public health authorities with contact tracing as directed:
    • This will include sharing of visitor and customer logs and staff information.
    • Public health authorities are responsible for providing relevant advice to all contacts identified by the public health investigation, including information on self-isolation and testing. NSW Health is following national guidance on the definition and management of contacts.
    • Public Health Unit staff may request that employees require immediate testing even though symptoms may not be present.
  • Advise staff, visitors, contractors and customers of the general situation. This might be via posters, letters or other communication channels as appropriate and in partnership with public health authorities. Information provided should include:
    • symptoms of COVID-19 that staff, visitors, contractors and customers should monitor themselves for
    • where to seek advice and help
    • reminders to staff, visitors and customers to not enter the premises if they are unwell
    • advice on physical distancing and personal hygiene measures (e.g. hand hygiene and cough etiquette)
    • what infection control measures the business operator has put in place, including cleaning
    • any other specific advice provided by public health authorities.
  • Implement infection control measures as directed by public health authorities. Employers should be aware that they also have obligations under Workplace Health and Safety legislation, that may require employers to notify SafeWork NSW of accidents and incidents that have occurred at that workplace (such as a COVID-19 case that might be associated with that workplace). SafeWork NSW and the relevant Public Health Unit (PHU) would work collaboratively on such cases.

Closing down the premises

Businesses do not necessarily have to close following detection of a confirmed case on the premises. Closure depends on a few things:

  • Public health risk assessment undertaken by the Public Health Unit.
  • Cleaning requirements. Premises must be appropriately cleaned following attendance of a confirmed case. This can be done overnight so as not to disrupt normal business hours.
  • Staffing implications. If staff are identified as close contacts and need to self-isolate, the business may not have enough staff available to remain operational.
  • Timing of the notification. If premises are notified during business hours they may need to close to undertake cleaning.

Cleaning guidance

All areas used by any suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 should be cleaned and disinfected.

For hard surfaces, either:

  • use detergent and water for cleaning followed by disinfectant solution (2-step clean)
  • use a combined detergent and disinfectant solution (2-in-1 clean).

For more information on cleaning, visit Safe Work Australia.

NSW Health does not require that a specialist cleaning company be used, but you can if you want to.

Further information on products, cleaning routines, PPE and disposal of equipment can be found at Safe Work Australia and the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC).

Employees returning to work