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M. Audrey Stewart-Hinchcliffe | Times Like No Other: The New Decade And The Coronavirus (Part 1)

M. Audrey Stewart-Hinchcliffe | Times Like No Other: The New Decade And The Coronavirus (Part 1)

Published:Wednesday | April 15, 2020 | 12:25 AM

At midnight December 31, 2019, I woke up to face the start of the new decade. The year 2020 had arrived, as we said goodbye to ‘teens’.

Except for a person, the country and the world now ceased to be ‘teens’; we had grown beyond our years, milestone by milestone, through previous decades.

I thought life is good. The country and the world could be better, though the economy was sluggish, social and political constructs were intertwined and could benefit from separation and repairs, respectively. The poor and the destitute have become the vehicle for advancement of politics and politricks. In return, “if you don’t have bread, give them cake”.

This is the backdrop for the entrance of SARS COV-2 that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, which was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31 of 2019, now commonly known as the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

This, too, ushered in the year 2020, as the virus started spreading like the proverbial wildfire, with the second wave hitting Asia and now grabbing worldwide attention as a pandemic. It went on to erupt in Australia, Europe and the Middle East. The Caribbean expected it was only a matter of time, so it was no surprise when it arrived on our shores early this month – imported, of course, from outside the region.

On the date of writing, Jamaica had confirmed its 73rd coronavirus case. The Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness, in a timely manner, has sought to educate the public through press conferences, town halls and all forms of media. The private sector’s response is a take-off from the Government’s efforts, with the PAHO/WHO policies and procedures as its foundation.


The role of the commercial cleaning industry:

“Get more than clean – get hygiene” (MMS tag line)

This should be the mantra for COVID-19.

The moment the viral infection is mentioned, hygiene should be the first order of business, effected through cleaning, sanitising, disinfecting and training. These are the underpinnings of disease control and prevention. They are not synonymous, as some would believe; they are distinct functions as set out below, quoting from the CDC definitions:

– CLEANING is the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

– DISINFECTING refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs on the surfaces after cleaning; it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

– On the other hand, there is SANITISING, which is the process of applying a substance or fluid designed to kill germs on skin or objects.

This is the underpinning of the explosion of products, in particular hand sanitiser.

And what of the much-touted hygiene?

– HYGIENE, according to the WHO, “refers to conditions and practices that help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases”.

COVID-19 control and prevention rest on these four legs – cleaning, disinfecting, sanitising and hygiene.

The role of the commercial cleaning industry is the underpinning for the four legs stated above. In this regard, the industry must ramp up to fight COVID-19, as businesses and property owners take precautions against the spread of the virus; hence, companies which are contracted to provide janitorial and related services have an obligation to be prepared to deliver the services to meet the standards set by local and international bodies for the control and prevention of COVID-19. But is the industry ready to meet the demands of the four legs stated above?

It is no secret that the local industry is unregulated, fragmented and perhaps unprepared to deal with a surge in demand. Already, from where I sit, the demand for enhanced cleaning is already surging. This is the time for companies to prove their capability in biohazard remediation. It may be too late for training and the acquisition of specialised chemical cleaning agents, equipment and machinery and trained personnel to treat and operate them safely and efficiently.

After all, the outbreak of the coronavirus may be a blessing in disguise, in some ways, to drive the actions needed to formalise the industry once and for all, after many years of seeking for it to be such.

In the meantime, companies are eager to clean their workplaces and to reassure workers and their clients that they are doing their part to combat the coronavirus. Now that the virus has reached pandemic status, it behoves owners of commercial cleaning companies and their staff to take the situation extremely seriously as the control and prevention of COVID-19, to a large extent, rest in our hands. In this regard, we must sharpen our knowledge and skills by training and retraining for new and enhanced methods of service delivery, with new and improved cleaning material, new tools and equipment, and to determine the requirements not only of industry-specific clients, but for the surfaces, whether hard or porus, whether it is common areas or closed areas, pools or fitness rooms. If necessary, we must bring in specialists where indicated.


The fact is there is still a lot of unknown knowledge about the virus, and especially its transmission, but according to the CDC, evidence suggests that the virus can remain viable on various surface types perhaps for a few days. Hence, every cleaning may require difference in details. It means, therefore, that the essential process rests on three factors:

1. Properly trained personnel.

2. Chemicals to be applied to surface types.

3. The equipment used to apply them.

Commercial cleaning contractors must exhibit their capability to deliver services along the lines stated above at a minimum, in addition to adopting the procedures set out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness; PAHO/WHO, CDC or OSHA.

Businesses must cooperate fully by disclosing if it has confirmed or suspected cases of persons in quarantine so that the appropriate precautions can be taken, and procedures followed to give effect to control and prevention of infections regardless of cause.

There will be life after COVID-19. We must band together for the fight; we are going to get through this, and lessons learned will make ourselves and businesses stronger.

M. Audrey Stewart-Hinchcliffe, CD, JP, MSc, BA, is CEO and founder of Manpower and Maintenance Services Ltd Group. Email feedback to: ceo@manpowerja.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.


Source: The Gleaner Company Media Limited


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