Villages in northern Italy are cordoned off, the Venice Carnival has been canceled. Hotels have been closed in Spain and there are more coronavirus sufferers in Germany. The virologist and disease control specialist Alexander Kekulé advises that we also have to take the virus seriously in Germany. The Ministry of Health expects further cases in Germany and recommends generally better protection against Sars-CoV-2 infections. What can employers do? We asked Udo Jäckel from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
ZEIT ONLINE: Many employers are currently considering what they can do to reduce the risk of infection for their employees. Do disinfectant sprays and tips for washing hands on toilets really work?
Udo Jäckel: They definitely make sense, since the viruses are primarily transmitted via smear and droplet infections. This means that if people cough in their hands and then touch something, for example a doorknob, they can transmit the viruses via the saliva in their hands, so I strongly recommend that everyone wash their hands regularly at work. And it is of course good if the employees do this according to the methods of the Robert Koch Institute and are informed of this with posters or training.
ZEIT ONLINE: How alarmed do you have to be when your neighbor coughs?
Jäckel: There is currently no widespread spread of the virus in Germany. However, if a colleague becomes ill and shows symptoms such as cough or fever, you should speak to him or her and give up as soon as possible. This also corresponds to the statutory duty of care that employers have.
"If you are suspected of being infected, you should definitely stay at home" Udo Jäckel, Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
ZEIT ONLINE: Even with a simple cough or how severe must the symptoms be to send someone home?
Jäckel: Every infection jeopardizes your colleagues, so mild symptoms should also be clarified.
ZEIT ONLINE: How should these employees behave best in order to keep the risk of infection as low as possible?
Jäckel: If you suspect that you may have contracted Covid-19, you should definitely stay at home and tell a doctor about your suspicion over the phone. This way you avoid entering a full waiting room. If possible, you should also not go to the doctor by public transport, so as not to infect other people. If the virus is detected, the doctor must immediately notify the health authorities.
ZEIT ONLINE: Would you recommend that companies clean their offices particularly thoroughly or more regularly in the near future?
Jäckel: Regular basic cleaning is part of general occupational hygiene. However, this should not be exaggerated for no reason.
ZEIT ONLINE: Should bosses buy respirators for their employees?
Jäckel: Usually you don't need that. The classic mouth and nose protection is not a respiratory protection, but rather a spit protection. It is only used to stop droplets from coughing or sneezing. In this respect, sick people should wear it and not healthy people. The particle filtering half mask FFP2 is required for correct protection. However, they are only needed in areas where people actually have a lot to do with infected people, for example in hospitals. Such respiratory protection measures should not be used in everyday life.