The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated their safety advisories for journalists covering the COVID-19 outbreak.
The latest advisory targets journalists on assignment, before and after travel and general use of face masks.
Journalists on assignment have been advised to heighten precaution measures to avoid infection.
WHO and CDC have singled out use of microphones advising journalists to prioritize use the non-contact boom microphone to lessen risk of infection.
Microphones and other equipment should not be placed on the floor and must be decontaminated with fast acting antimicrobial wipes.
Journalists have also been advised to conduct interviews in open spaces with good ventilation.
Use of medical personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a bodysuit and full face mask may also be necessary if working in or visiting an infected site or quarantine health facility.
Below is the full advisory
- According to the WHO and CDC, older people and individuals with chronic health conditions are considered high risk. If you fall into this high risk category, you should consider not participating in the assignment if the risk of exposure is significant.
- Regularly check the status of any event or location you might be attending, taking into account that some countries have banned public gatherings.
- Before travelling to an affected country or location ensure all relevant vaccinations and disease prophylaxis are up-to-date for your destination. Consider getting the flu vaccine to prevent confusion over any symptoms you may develop.
- Consider the potential psychological impact of reporting from an area affected by COVID-19,especially if reporting from a medical or isolation facility, or quarantine zone.
- There have been incidents of racist attacks against certain nationalities, a factor to consider when selecting staff for any assignment. Increased levels of hostility and prejudice should also be taken into account.
- Be aware of misinformation, something that the WHO has specifically warned about.
- Ensure you have a contingency plan in place. Urban centers and/or entire regions can be locked down and quarantined with little or no notice.
- Do not travel if you are sick. Many international and regional airports, as well as other transportation hubs, have implemented health screening measures. Travellers may face testing and enforced quarantine on arrival
- Check if your destination country requires a medical certificate to prove you are COVID-19 free.
- If visiting a health facility, a quarantine zone or animal markets, enquire about the hygiene measures that are in place.
- Avoid close contact with anybody showing symptoms such as coughing or sneezing; maintain at least 1 meter away.
- Prioritise the use a boom mics if possible.
- If you are operating in a health facility or market never place your equipment on the floor. Always decontaminate equipment including mics with fast acting antimicrobial wipes.
- Wash your hands regularly with water and soap. Use hand sanitizer or wipes if water and soap is not available.
- Use medical personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a bodysuit and full face mask may also be necessary if working in or visiting an infected site or quarantine health facility.
- Always ensure your hands are washed thoroughly with water and soap before, during and after leaving an affected area. Use hand sanitizers gel or wipes if water and soap is not available.
- If you develop symptoms, especially fever or shortness of breath, consider how you will seek medical treatment. Some government health bodies may recommend self-quarantine to prevent the infection of others. If you are in a heavily infected country, you may risk encountering COVID-19 infected patients at crowded treatment centers, therefore increasing your chances of exposure.
- Always follow the local health authorities’ guidance and instructions.
- If possible, conduct an interview on an open area e.g. outside or if indoors make sure there is good ventilation (open windows).
The CDC and WHO are in agreement that it is not necessary for people without symptoms to wear masks, unless you are told to by the local authorities; you are in a high-risk area such as a hospital; or you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection. If you do wear a mask you should follow this advice:
- If necessary, an N95 mask (or FFP2 / FFP3) is recommended over a standard ‘surgical’ mask.
- Ensure that the mask fits securely over the bridge of the nose and chin, minimizing gaps in the fit. Ensure facial hair is removed and maintained.
- Avoid touching the mask, and only remove it by using the straps. Never touch the front
- Always wash hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after removing the mask.
- Replace the mask with a new, clean dry mask as soon as it becomes damp/humid
- Remember that use of a mask is only one part of personal protection. Not touching your mouth, nose, and eyes and regularly washing your hands are strongly recommended
- Cotton/gauze masks are not recommended under any circumstances
- Ensure you maintain personal hygiene;
- Washing hand with soap and water for at least 20 secs as the primary option.
- If you can’t wash your hand, use hand sanitizers.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene – This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Ensure all equipment are cleaned and disinfected using anti-bacterial gel or wipes.
- Monitor your personal health after leaving an affected country or specific location (e.g. health facility). Seek medical attention if you develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of return, informing the health service prior to attendance about the recent travel/risk of exposure
- Inform your line manager as soon as possible if you develop symptoms, and be aware that you may be required to self-isolate. Discuss with your line manager the possibility and feasibility of remote working for a period of time on return.
- If you do need to self-isolate, make a plan regarding shopping for supplies and caring for any dependents.