Infection control in community schemes during Level 3
Community schemes around the country were largely caught unawares after the news that domestic workers and gardeners were allowed to return to during lockdown Level 3, leaving them rushing to implement infection control measures at entrances and common areas.
Omar Kinnear, founder of ResidentPortal, the web-based communication portal for estates and complexes, says the rush is due to expectations that domestic workers were originally expected to only return in Level 2.
“With infection rates expected to rise dramatically in coming weeks, there is no time to waste in implementing the necessary infection control procedures in order to protect residents, estate personnel, guards and returning workers to the extent possible,” he says.
While there are no prescribed measures for community schemes, just what is the recommended advice?
Tendai Nyemba, a director of BioSphere M.D., a supplier of affordable health and safety solutions for individuals and small businesses, advises that a sober risk-based approach should be taken.
“There are a number of measures that can be applied, such as standalone plastic shields and distance markers for queues at the gate, but the minimum requirement should be sanitisation, face masks or shields and temperature screening.”
Nyemba notes: “We are learning new things about Covid-19 every day. According to our current understanding, it is mainly transmitted through exposure to droplets from coughing, sneezing and contaminated surfaces.
“Solutions should therefore prioritise areas with the highest risk of exposure, either because of increased surface contact or increased concentration of people in the same place.”
Applying sanitiser before and after touching objects in communal areas such as access keypads and entry gates/ turnstiles is therefore essential, she says. Longer lasting sanitisers that don’t irritate skin should also be considered to reduce the number of times they are needed.
She warns against creating a culture of overkill that arises from spreading fear, which can lead people and organisations to implement steps that may be harmful to their health or the environment.
“Personally, I’m not entirely supportive of foggers that sanitise the entire person, because they can also result in skin and lung irritations,” says Nyemba. “An alternative to fogging all pedestrian traffic, residents should consider options such as keeping coveralls or overcoats at the house.
“Of course, hand washing beats sanitisation as a prevention measure so estates should consider a possible long-term approach to install or increase the number of handwashing stations in the estate.”
Face masks / shields
Touching one’s face after coming into contact with the virus is a common way the infection is spread. “Face shields and masks not only prevent infection by droplets to varying degrees, but they also help to retrain our brains and change face-touching behaviour. They should therefore be non-negotiables in the estate’s prevention kit at entrances and exits.”
However, she points out that controls that cause discomfort are less likely to be maintained. “Masks should be supported by other things such as processes with built-in ‘breathing’ breaks where personnel such as guards take planned breaks without their masks in a controlled environment, such as every 30 minutes.
Nyemba points out that temperature checking might identify some people with Covid-19, but it won’t catch people who have the illness and are either asymptomatic or haven’t developed symptoms yet.
“For this reason, while infra-red thermometers have their use and should be applied, face masks and physical distancing are even more important,” she says.
Gaining community support
According to Nyemba, a shared model of responsibility should be clearly communicated to all residents. “What an individual does in their home can easily affect what happens to the whole community and can undo any precautions taken by the body corporate/ estate as a whole,” she notes.
Contingency plans should cater for those scenarios, for example, what if someone does not disinfect before they touch the access control keypad? How do we protect the next person to touch it? Standard processes and procedures should be reviewed with an infection risk-focused approach.
“Management should engage the community and allow them to make suggestions – especially when it comes to how they plan to reduce risks in their own home. This is likely to foster improved shared ownership and accountability.
“Besides the physical and process changes, there is a human element that must be managed in the estate community since we all adapt to change at different rates,” she continues. “Management should consider activities such as gamification to spread knowledge, bust myths and encourage changed behaviour: learning without feeling like you are at school.
“Solutions are not always in the form of products. Sometimes they come in the form of simple processes changes.”
Nyemba points out that all controls and planning should assume that a fraction of society will not follow guidelines laid out in good faith. This is especially true among some sections of society who do not believe the virus is real, or that it is transmissible from human-to-human (see the pervading theory of exposure to 5G waves, which some have put forward as a possible cause of the pandemic).
“Management should therefore take care to maintain a fine balance of control/ safety and freedom based on the community’s various individual opinions,” she concludes.
ResidentPortal is developed and managed by Sandton-based software consulting and development company, Business Xponent Solutions (BXS). The estate communication platform is one of the products emerging from 20 years of experience in the software industry of its founder, Omar Kinnear. One of the original developers of the SARS eFiling platform, Kinnear brings to ResidentPortal a wealth of knowledge of system performance and security.
Since 2016, around 100 complexes are using the Free Plan of ResidentPortal, and over 1000 residents, mostly in and around Gauteng, are benefiting from the way the full-featured Standard and Pro packages are simplifying their lives in their estates and complexes.
For more information, contact: Omar Kinnear, 078 798 3378