EPIDEMIOLOGIST Dr Avery Hinds has called on employers to have a work environment where sick workers do not feel they must be at the workplace.
He was speaking Wednesday during the Health Ministry's covid19 media conference.
Hinds said employers need to ensure physical distancing measures are maintained and, if there is the full complement of staff, rotations should be considered.
He added the ministry also encourages the use of masks where physical distancing cannot be maintained, as well as frequent hand sanitisation and sanitisation of shared items – such as telephones – before and after use, doors kept open to avoid touching of door handles, and sanitisation and frequent cleaning of shared surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms.
"More importantly, if anyone feels unwell we want to encourage employers to create an environment where individuals do not feel compelled to come to work which brings with it the danger of infecting their colleagues and further reducing the workforce."
Hinds said employers are urged to encourage their employees tostay away from the workplace at the first sign of any symptoms ministry officials have flagged such as loss of sense of smell, extreme fatigue, fever, cough or sore throat.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh recalled that at Monday's media conference he said two of the factors driving the second wave of covid19 infections in TT were people aged 25-49 socialising, and people who are knowingly ill still going to work.
"They are really giving us sleepless nights in this second wave."
He pointed out covid19 guidelines were issued in May and have been in circulation for four months. Those guidelines, Deyalsingh said, spoke to the "new normal" and reopening guidelines for businesses, facilities and institutions both private and public. He cited page seven of the guidelines which noted the key stakeholders including groceries and supermarkets, stores, churches, banks, homes for the aged, offices, schools, public and state-sector agencies.
Deyalsingh said businesses can institute measures like thermal screening to ensure people who may have a fever, which is a sign of respiratory illness, do not come into the workplace and infect entire workforces.
He stressed, employers need to recognise the global pandemic is not slowing down with 275,000 to 300,000 cases per day. He said globally the death toll is 903,058 and "it was only a matter of time" before it hit one million.
"It is not a good place to be, but it is inevitable."
Deyalsingh said, locally the number of deaths has regrettably gone up (the current total was 39) but it was still below the global average.
"But these are people with real families. With real names. And we say thirty-something people have died, but these are real people. Real families are hurting. They may be nameless individuals to us but those families affected, they represent a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a loved one. And we have a duty...to protect that most vulnerable group."
He said the ministry was asking employers to familiarise themselves with the covid19 guidelines and pointed out there are also guidelines available from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. He added this was very important in dampening the second wave of infections.
"And we are asking business and employers to do what is right...(and) in the best interest of your employees. Because you want a healthy workforce...(and one) that is...happy and well protected. A lot of this onus now rests on you.
"We want your customers and your clients to come to your places of business. We want business activity to pick up. And we want to have business continuity. We don't want to see business shutting down because employees are being allowed to come to work ill."