With the second wave of what seems to be an unrelenting strain of the novel coronavirus wreaking havoc in our nation presently, it’s easy to see why South Africans might be more cautious about allowing someone who isn’t part of their households into their homes. But, what does that mean for SweepSouth’s database of around 4,000 SweepStars working regularly on the platform, or urgently required service providers who need to come in to fix unforeseen emergencies, such as a burst geyser or a broken washing machine?
“Minimising risk and protecting your family is all about following a few simple guidelines, and by having an understanding of how the coronavirus is actually transmitted,” says Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth, an on-demand home cleaning service app which provides cleaning and home-repair services to thousands of homes in South Africa and Kenya.
“By having a better understanding of how transmission occurs, we can ensure that the contact we have with other people is done so at minimal risk for all involved,” she says.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, evidence suggests that transmission occurs through droplets or naturally occurring aerosols which are a suspension of fine solid particles or invisible liquid droplets found in the air. These can be unknowingly exhaled by someone in conversation with another, or from coughing or sneezing. Aerosols linger in the air for an extended period of time, whereas fomite transition i.e. infected droplets left on surfaces, handles or handrails which is generally considered a form of transmission, is unlikely to be the primary cause.
Perform the necessary checks
“It’s the home owner’s responsibility to maintain their own safety protocols as these benefit not just SweepStars but your own family too. We have safety precautions in place so, for example, SweepStars will always wear masks, keep to social distancing protocols and keep strict sanitising measures whilst they are present in your home,” says Pandor.
“Keeping our SweepStars and clients safe from COVID is our priority at SweepSouth, and in this vein, we also ask that clients please inform us if anyone in their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, has been exposed to the virus or has shown symptoms in the last 10 days,” she says.
Take precautions during work hours
Experts in the medical field have confirmed that successful transmission occurs through aerosols and droplets, however this is dependent on proximity and length of exposure to an infected person. “Basically, this means that the closer you stand next to an infected person, and the more time you spend with them, the greater your chances are of being infected, and the higher your likelihood of severe infection” says Pandor.
If you’re at home while a cleaner is working or when a workman needs to do repairs (whether from SweepSouth or hired privately), she advises that everyone should wear a mask at all times, and practise social distancing. “Social distancing helps more than anything to reduce the spread of the virus, so keep talking to a minimum, open windows to keep fresh air circulating, and keep your distance to at least 1.5 metres.” Just in case someone arrives without a mask on, have clean masks on hand for them to quickly place over both their nose and mouth.
To further help reduce the spread of germs, keep a bottle of medical-grade hand sanitizer on a table at the front door, and insist that anyone coming in must sanitise their hands first. If you belong to the ‘shoes-don’t-belong-indoors’ camp, ask anyone coming indoors to remove their shoes, or provide disposable booties. For workmen, spread newspapers or a plastic drop sheet on the floor where they will be working, and cover tables or countertops with newspaper so that they can safely lay out their tools.
If you have an elderly relative, or an immuno-compromised person living at home, keep them in an area of the house as far away as possible from where the work is being conducted.
The above precautions are as much for the workers as they are for you, and most service providers will appreciate your thoughtfulness. For their own safety, encourage them to avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily, avoid touching their faces or mouths with their hands while doing the job, and afterwards, ask them to wash their hands with soap and water.
After a service provider has left, throw away any newspapers or drop sheets, then wipe down hard surfaces and door handles that may have been touched, with a disinfectant. Wipe and disinfect any sinks and taps where they have washed their hands. These measures may sound extreme, but it will add another blanket of protection for your family and yourself.
“By sticking to the above simple guidelines, the risk of transmission is much smaller,” says Pandor. With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa likely to hit a third peak soon, now is the time to increase preventative measures so never feel awkward or guilty about asking someone to comply with safety measures. It’s vitally important for all of us to keep each other safe, while keeping our economy functioning and our population working. Adding in these layers of intervention will greatly help to reduce risk and spread of the virus.