The Department of Labour highlights the jobs which are most at risk of coronavirus exposure

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Within a matter of days, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has sent widespread panic throughout South Africa.

Currently, there are 402 confirmed cases within South Africa and two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Newcastle.

As we as a country and town prepare to adapt to the national lockdown implemented by the government, we take a moment to look at members of South Africa’s workforce who is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

The South African government has earmarked the following jobs at most risk of coronavirus exposure:

Very high exposure risk

Very high exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures. Workers in this category include:

  • Healthcare workers (e.g. doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, emergency medical technicians) performing aerosol-generating procedures (e.g. intubation, cough induction procedures, bronchoscopies, some dental procedures and exams, or invasive specimen collection) on known or suspected COVID-19 patients.
  • Healthcare or laboratory personnel collecting or handling specimens from known or suspected COVID-19 patients (e.g. manipulating cultures from known or suspected COVID-19 patients).
  • Morgue workers performing autopsies, which generally involve aerosol-generating procedures, on the bodies of people who are known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19 at the time of their death.

High exposure risk

High exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of Covid-19. Workers in this category include:

  • Healthcare delivery and support staff (e.g. doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who must enter patients’ rooms) exposed to known or suspected Covid-19 patients. (Note: when such workers perform aerosol-generating procedures, their exposure risk level becomes very high).
  • Medical transport workers (e.g. ambulance personnel and porters) moving known or suspected Covid-19 patients in enclosed vehicles.
  • Mortuary workers involved in preparing (e.g. for burial or cremation) the bodies of people who are known to have; or suspected of having Covid-19 at the time of their death.

Medium exposure risk

Medium exposure risk jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e. within 2 meters of) people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients.

In areas without ongoing community transmission, workers in this risk group may have frequent contact with travellers who may return from international locations with widespread COVID-19 transmission.

In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, workers in this category may have contact with the general public (e.g. in schools, high-population-density work environments, such as labour centres, consulting rooms, point of entry personnel and some high-volume retail settings).

Low exposure risk

Lower exposure risk (caution) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2, nor frequent close contact with (i.e. within 2 meters of) the general public. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other co-workers.

As we deal with the changes in our life in order to minimise the impact that the coronavirus, COVID-19, is currently having on our lives, let’s not forget those who put their health and lives on the line in order for us to lead a healthy life.

Let’s not forget the doctors, nurses, paramedics, retail staff and everyone else who gets up in the morning, knowing that they are putting their lives on the line for you to be able to remain safe.

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