Covid-19 and suspected cases: new guidelines for Brazilian workplaces
New ordinance updates prevention, control and risk reduction measures for Covid-19 transmission
On January 25, 2022, Ordinance No. 14 was published in Brazil’s Official Federal Gazette. Featuring guidelines from Brazil’s Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Health, this new regulation updates measures for preventing, controlling and reducing risks regarding Covid-19 transmission in the workplace.
Ordinance No. 14 has amended Annex I of Ordinance No. 20, published on June 18, 2020.
The new ordinance provides for a set of complementary health measures that establishments in operation must follow. However, these measures do not apply to health services, which must observe specific guidelines and regulations.
According to the new provisions, a confirmed case of Covid-19 is established when a worker displays one or more of the following signs or conditions:
Influenza-like illness (sindrome gripal – SG) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), associated with a lack of sense of smell or taste with no other previous cause, when Covid-19 cannot be confirmed by any other method;
SG or SARS when there has been close contact or contact at home with a confirmed Covid-19 case in the 14 days prior to the appearance of signs and symptoms;
SG or SARS with a positive laboratory Covid-19 test result;
Asymptomatic, presenting a positive laboratory Covid-19 test result;
SG, SARS or death from SARS when obtaining a positive laboratory Covid-19 test result is not possible, but changes in lung imaging tests suggest the presence of Covid-19.
An SG case occurs when a person shows signs of at least two of the following symptoms:
A lack of or modified sense of taste or smell;
A sore throat and headache,
Coryza (inflammation of the upper respiratory tract);
In the same vein, cases involving SARS are considered to involve SG symptoms, as well as the following:
Dyspnea (shortness of breath) and/or respiratory discomfort;
Persistent pressure or pain in the chest;
Oxygen saturation levels lower than 95% in ambient air or bluish coloration of the lips or face.
Leave period for on-site workers
Regarding confirmed cases: the period has changed to ten days. Organizations can reduce this period to seven days, provided that the worker’s respiratory symptoms are in remission, and they have shown no signs of fever for 24 hours without using antipyretic drugs. In determining the first day of isolation for a confirmed case, either the day following the onset of symptoms or the day the molecular (PCR) or antigen test is conducted should be considered.
Close contact with a confirmed case: Ordinance No. 14 has updated the definition of a worker in close contact with a confirmed case. In this situation, the leave period for on-site workers is now also ten days, counted from the last day of contact with the confirmed case.
Suspected cases: Any worker presenting signs or symptoms compatible with SG or SARS (described above) is considered a suspected case. The leave period for on-site workers in this situation is now the same as the period for confirmed cases indicated above, except that the leave period should be counted from the day following the day symptoms commence.
Furthermore, the new regulation provides for a stricter definition of workers in close contact with suspected cases. As a rule, workers in close contact with a suspected Covid-19 case must be informed about the case and advised to immediately report the emergence of any Covid-19 related symptoms to the organization.
Social distancing and workers in risk groups
In contrast to Ordinance No. 20, Ordinance No. 14’s guidelines do not mention the prioritization for scheduling in-person client service and support. Organizations are also no longer required to prioritize the distribution of workers’ hours across specific shifts as a way of minimizing contact between staff, with the same logic applying to in-person meetings, which were previously to be avoided. However, organizations must still adopt measures to prevent people from gathering in large groups in the workplace.
Moreover, organizations are no longer obliged to prioritize telework or remote work for workers in risk group – the ordinance expressly states that these measures can be taken at the employer’s discretion. However, if an organization does not adopt telework or remote work, it must provide workers in risk groups with surgical or PFF2/N95 (or equivalent) masks.
Screening at the entrance of establishments using infrared body temperature measurement (or equivalent) is no longer mandatory. In any case, previously established rules remain in effect, including a requirement to create channels for workers to communicate the appearance of Covid-19 symptoms or contact with a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 case.
In addition to the topics mentioned above, other rules regarding ventilation in workplaces and common areas, cafeterias, transportation, and water fountains have been updated.
*With the collaboration of Lucas Barreto.