The Engro Corporation announced on Tuesday that it is closing all the company's offices located in The Harbour Front building in Karachi after one of its employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a statement issued today, Engro said that the employee who was diagnosed with COVID19 had come to the office on March 6 "for only a few hours". The statement added that though the circumstances "do not warrant office closure and call for self-monitoring", the decision to close the offices for the next three days was a "precautionary measure".
"One of Pakistan's leading Infectious Diseases Specialists has indicated that exposure to the infected person of more than 15 minutes (sic) and at a distance of less than one metre may make one more susceptible to contracting the virus," the statement read.
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During the closure, Engro offices will be disinfected while employees will continue to work from home, the company statement said. When the offices reopen on Monday, March 16, the employees will be screened for coronavirus' symptoms "as a precaution".
The company's doctor has also advised employees to monitor their health over the next two weeks and consult a doctor in case of any flu-like symptoms.
Soon after Engro's announcement, the administration of Dolmen City — where the Harbour Front is situated — issued a statement saying that the mall and other offices situated in the building will remain open.
"As advised by local authorities and medical experts, COVID-19 is spread via close proximity of affected individual (3 feet or less for more than 15 mins)," the statement posted on Dolmen's Facebook page read. "We have been advised that this is an isolated incident and does not affect the mall or offices. Both, Dolmen Mall and offices will remain open and operating as per usual."
There have been 15 cases of the virus reported in Sindh so far, with 14 of them surfacing in Karachi.
How to prevent COVID19 at your workplace?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a guide on measures that organisations should take to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading. Some of these measures include:
Ensure that the workplace is hygienic and clean and that desks, telephones and other objects that employees come into regular contact with are wiped regularly with disinfectants.
Encourage employees and visitors to wash their hands with soap or sanitise with an alcohol-based sanitiser regularly.
Place hand sanitisers in prominent places so people in the workplace can clean their hands regularly.
As COVID19 can spread from droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, workplaces should promote "respiratory hygiene".
Place paper towels or masks for anyone who is sneezing or has a cough to protect other people.
Place closed bins for safe disposal of tissues, paper towels or masks that have been used to sneeze in.
Tell employees to stay and work from home if they experience even a mild increase in temperature (37.3C or higher).
Advise employees to minimise personal contact with others.
In case of a meeting, make sure the room is well ventilated and that there is a distance of at least one metre between the attendees.