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Guidelines for Reopening of Hotels & Other Tourism Accommodations in Turks and Caicos Islands

Hotels and tourism accommodation establishments are no more susceptible to contagion than other public establishments, visited by large numbers of people, who interact among themselves and with employees. Nevertheless, they are places where guests stay temporarily in close cohabitation and where there is a high degree of interaction among guests and workers.

It is these aspects—the lodging of guests in along with the services this entails (food and beverage, cleaning, activity organization, etc.)—and the interactions specific to these establishments (guest-guest, guest-staff, and staff-staff) that require specific attention.

Every staff member must strictly comply with the basic protective measures against COVID-19 recommended by Ministry of Health, such as hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, practice respiratory hygiene and to heed the advice to stay home and seek medical attention if they have symptoms consistent with the disease.

Management team

The management of the establishment should adopt a responsible attitude to address the health threat of COVID-19.

Action plan

The Management Team, in consultation with Ministry of Tourism and Tourist Board should establish an action plan tailored to the situation and implement it in accordance with the recommendations of Ministry of Health. The aim of the Plan should be to prevent cases, effectively manage cases, and mitigate impact among clients and staff, including cleaning and disinfection of rooms occupied by ill persons. The plan, which may incorporate teleworking, should be updated when necessary as a consequence of new guidance, procedures, or regulations issued by the Ministry of Health.

Mobilization of resources

The Management Team should make sufficient human and economic resources available to ensure that the action plan can be implemented rapidly and effectively.

The action plan should also include the provision of equipment and procedures, developed in collaboration with Ministry of Health, for the management of suspected case(s) and their possible contacts.

Supervision

The implementation of the action plan and the effectiveness of the measures undertaken should be evaluated frequently to verify compliance, identify and correct gaps, and adapt the plan to practical experience. A Crisis Team involving members of each relevant department can support Management in the implementation of the action plan and timely identification of required adjustments. It is necessary to be alert to any unusual rise in worker absenteeism, especially those due to acute respiratory infections, possibly caused by COVID-19.

Communication

Communication should be maintained between Management and staff, through the managers in charge of the different departments, in order to pre-define an information policy for guests as well as to rapidly provide and obtain information on incidents that may arise in the establishment and to know the status of the situation at all times. Providing guidelines to the staff on how they should communicate the action plan to guests and other stakeholders can ensure alignment consistency.

Information posters can amplify the key messages among guests and staff, including the promotion of hand-washing (at least 20 seconds, all parts of the hand), respiratory hygiene, and coughing etiquette.

Training and information

Management should inform all staff of the measures to be adopted and the measures that could protect their health and that of others, including the recommendation to stay home and seek medical attention if they have respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath.

Management should organize information briefings that should cover all the basic protective measures against COVID-19 and the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Human Resources

Reduce Transmission Among Employees

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:

  • Employees who have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home.
  • Sick employees should follow the following steps:

Stay home except to get medical care

  • Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency. If you are having an emergency, call 911 and inform them in advance if you suspect you may have COVID-19.
  • Avoid; ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home quarantine are met, in consultation with the public health team of the Ministry of Health.
  • Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow MOH instructions.
  • Be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a distance of six feet from other workers, customers and visitors, or to telework if possible.
  • Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
  • Practice social distancing by avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

Separate sick People:

  • Employees who appear to have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home.
  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required. The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the Ministry of Health guidance.

Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.

  • Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.
  • Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member or take care of children due to school and childcare closures. Additional flexibilities might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.
  • Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
  • Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.

Consider establishing policies and practices for social distancing. Social distancing should be implemented if recommended by state and local health authorities. Social distancing means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible (e.g., breakrooms and cafeterias). Strategies that business could use include:

  • Implementing flexible worksites (e.g., telework)
  • Implementing flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts)
  • Increasing physical space between employees at the worksite
  • Increasing physical space between employees and customers
  • Implementing flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events)
  • Downsizing operations
  • Delivering services remotely (e.g. phone, video, or web)
  • Delivering products through curbside pick-up or delivery

Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their COVID-19 response plan based on local conditions.

Reception and concierge

Information and communication

Reception desk staff should be sufficiently informed about COVID-19 so that they can safely carry out their assigned tasks and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 within the establishment. They should be capable of informing guests who inquire about the establishment’s policy in terms of the preventive measures established or other services that guests may require (for example, medical and pharmacy services available in the area or at the establishment itself). They should also be able to advise guests with respiratory symptoms to stay in their rooms until they are seen by a doctor—management should arrange it immediately—as well as to provide basic hygiene recommendations when asked.

Reception desk staff, if possible, should not be older or with underlying health conditions. Reception desk staff must take all necessary precautions, including physical distancing.

Official, up-to-date information should be available about travel to and from countries or areas where COVID-19 is spreading.

Reception Desk staff should be familiar with the room occupancy policy for accompanying persons in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19.

The reception desk should have immediately available the telephone numbers of the Ministry of Health Hotline (649-232-9444/333-0911) for use whenever there is the possibility that a guest may be ill.

Necessary equipment and medical kit at the reception desk

The use of masks is recommended for the public as a preventive measure, and for those who are ill with COVID-19 symptoms or those caring for them, the reception desk should have a medical kit that includes the following items:

  • Germicidal disinfectant/wipes for surface cleaning Tissues.
  • Face/eye masks (separate or combined, face shield, goggles). Note that disposable face masks can only be used once.
  • Gloves (disposable)
  • Protective apron (disposable)
  • Full-length long-sleeved gown
  • Biohazard disposable waste bag

Social distancing measures, hand cleaning, and respiratory hygiene

Social distancing measures, together with frequent hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, are the main measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

  • Social distancing includes refraining from hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with guests as well as among staff. It involves maintaining a distance of at least 6ft and avoiding anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Hand hygiene means regularly and thoroughly cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water. Also avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Hand disinfection is indicated after exchanging objects (money, credit cards) with guests.
  • Respiratory etiquette means covering mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. The used tissue should be disposed of immediately in a bin with a lid.

Monitoring of guests who are possibly ill

While observing regulations in relation to the protection of personal data and the right to privacy, it is advisable to monitor potentially ill guests in the establishment. Reception staff should note all relevant incidents that come to their knowledge, such as requests for doctor’s visits. This information will aid guests through appropriate advice, facilitating early detection, and rapid management of suspected cases with Ministry of Health.

All illnesses should be reported to the Ministry of Health via the Tourism Health and Safety System (THiS). Measures for destination safety to mitigate the risk of communicable disease outbreaks in the tourism industry - the Turks and Caicos Islands Government has taken has implanted the Tourism and Health program in collaboration with CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) (https://www.onecaribbean.org/our-work/tourism-health-programme/). This programme will help to protect the country’s economy and ensure that its reputation and image is safeguarded. The Tourism and Health information System (THiS) (http://this.carpha.org/), which is an early warning system, is an integral component of this program. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourist Board are therefore working together to ensure that it is successfully implemented. With growing concerns regarding new and emerging diseases, including COVID-19 which has had a negative impact on the tourism industry in the TCI and across the world, there is no better time to ensure that the programme, which includes the THiS, is optimally functional. Hotels/properties should contact the Ministry of Health in order to enroll in the programme if they have not already done so.

Reception staff must treat all this information with discretion, leaving it up to the management and to medical services to evaluate the situation and make appropriate decisions.

Technical and maintenance services

  1. Water disinfection

It is necessary to maintain the concentration of disinfectant in water for consumption and in pools or spas within the limits recommended according to international norms and standards, preferably at the upper limits of the range.

  1. Dishwashing and laundry equipment

The proper functioning of the dishwashing and laundry equipment should be checked, particularly the operating temperatures, as well as the correct dosage of cleaning and disinfecting chemicals.

  1. Air-conditioning

Although COVID-19 is not transmitted by air but from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when an infected person coughs or exhales, attention should be given, as in normal circumstances, to monitoring the condition of filters and maintaining the proper replacement rate of indoor air. The proper functioning of ventilation, air exchange, and dehumidification equipment of covered pools should be checked.

  1. Dispensers

Regular checks should be carried out to ensure the proper functioning of soap and disinfectant solution dispensers, hand dryers, disposable tissue dispensers, and other similar devices. Defective units should be rapidly repaired or replaced. The hotel action plan should include installing units to dispense disinfectant gel in the different areas of the hotel, including the public restrooms used by guests and by staff, and other areas of interest (e.g. entrance to the dining hall, restaurants, and bars).

Restaurants, breakfast and dining rooms and bars

  1. Information and communication

Restaurants, breakfast, and dining room and bar staff should perform personal hygiene (frequent regular handwashing, cough hygiene) as strictly as possible. Guests should be reminded when entering and leaving the restaurant, breakfast, or dining room to disinfect their hands with disinfectant gel, located at the entrance/exit to those facilities.

Buffets and drinks machines

At the buffets, guests should avoid handling food. Change utensils more frequently, always leaving these items in separate containers. Clean and disinfect the buffet surfaces after each service.

The coffee machines, soda machines, and others, in particular the parts more in contact with the hands of users, should be cleaned and disinfected at least after each service and more often if necessary.

Washing dishes, silverware, and table linen

The usual procedures should be used. All dishes, silverware, and glassware should be washed and disinfected in a dishwashing machine, including items that have not been used, as they might have been in contact with the hands of guests or staff.

If for any reason manual washing is required, the usual steps should be followed (wash, disinfect, rinse), taking the maximum level of precautions. Drying should be carried out using disposable paper towels. Likewise, tablecloths and napkins should be washed in the usual manner.

Table setting

Whenever possible, it is recommended to have a maximum of 4 persons for 10 square meters. Tables shall be arranged such that the distance from the back of one chair to the back of another chair shall be more than 6ft apart and that guests face each other from a distance of at least 6ft.

Recreational areas for children

Although the current evidence indicates that most children appear to develop less serious respiratory symptoms of COVID-19, there are reports of children infected with COVID-19 who have developed severe or critical disease, and some children have died. The persons responsible for children should be vigilant for any signs of respiratory disease and should immediately inform the child’s parents and the management of such circumstance. Frequent cleaning and disinfection protocols should be applied to these facilities.

Cleaning and housekeeping

  1. Cleaning and disinfection

Even in the absence of COVID-19 cases in the establishment, it is recommended that hygiene services be enhanced. Special consideration should be given to the application of cleaning and disinfection measures in common areas (restrooms, halls, corridors, lifts, etc.) as a general preventive measure during the entire COVID-19 epidemic. Special attention should be given to objects that are frequently touched such as handles, elevator buttons, handrails, switches, doorknobs, etc. Cleaning staff should be instructed accordingly.

As part of the tourism accommodation establishment action plan for COVID-19, there should be a special cleaning and disinfection plan for situations in which there are sick guests or employees staying at the establishment or identified with COVID-19 within a few days after leaving the establishment. Written recommendations for enhanced cleaning and disinfection should describe the enhanced operating procedures for cleaning, managing solid waste, and for wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

The following should be implemented for rooms or specific areas exposed to COVID-19 cases:

  • Any surfaces that become soiled with respiratory secretions or other body fluids of the ill person(s), e.g. toilet, handwashing basins, and baths should be cleaned with a regular household disinfectant solution containing 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (that is, equivalent to 1000 ppm). Surfaces should be rinsed with clean water after 10 minutes contact time for chlorine.
  • Service staff may require additional training in the preparation, handling, application, and storage of these products, mostly bleach, which may be at a higher concentration than usual. The cleaning staff should know how to make sure the bleach is not disintegrated and how to rinse it off after 10 minutes.
  • When use of bleach is not suitable, e.g. telephone, remote control equipment, door handlings, buttons in the elevator, etc. then alcohol 70% could be used.
  • Whenever possible, use only disposable cleaning materials. Discard any cleaning equipment made of cloths and absorbent materials, e.g. mop head and wiping cloths. When pertinent, disinfect properly non-porous cleaning materials with 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution or according to manufacturer’s instructions before using for other rooms.
  • Textiles, linens, and clothes should be put in special, marked laundry bags and handled carefully to prevent raising dust, with consequent potential contamination of surrounding surfaces or people. Instructions should be given for washing them in hot cycles with the usual detergents. All used items must be handled appropriately to mitigate the risk of potential transmission.
  • Disposable items (hand towels, gloves, masks, tissues) should be placed in a container with a lid and disposed of according to the hotel action plan and national regulations for waste management.
  • In general, public areas where a case has passed through or has spent minimal time in (corridors) do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected.
  • Cleaning crews should be trained on use of PPE and hand hygiene immediately after removing the PPE, and when cleaning and disinfection work is completed.
  • All rooms and common areas should be ventilated daily.

Monitoring of sick guests

Housekeeping and cleaning staff should inform the management or the reception desk of any pertinent incidents, including possibly sick guests in their rooms. They must treat all this information with discretion.

Availability of materials

Cleaning staff should be trained on the use of and provided with personal protection equipment as listed below:

  • Gloves
  • Disposable gowns
  • Closed shoes
  • If doing procedures that generate splashes (e.g. while washing surfaces), add facial protection with a face shield and impermeable aprons.

They should also have access to sufficient disinfectant solutions and other supplies.

  1. Optional housekeeping programs

All programs where guests can voluntarily forego housekeeping services should be suspended in the service of maximizing health and safety of hotel staff and guests alike.

Handling COVID-19 cases in hotels and tourism accommodation establishments

  1. General recommendations

If a guest or staff develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection, efforts should immediately be made to minimize contact of the ill person with all guests and staff of the establishment. Reception or other hotel staff should follow the procedures in the action plan for the situation when a guest develops signs and symptoms indicative of COVID-19.

  • Separate the ill person from the other persons by at least 2 m (6 ft.).
  • Management shall consider relevant measures that the ill person is taken care of in an adequate way. This might include the need for the potential designation of one member of the staff, who is sufficiently trained in infection prevention and control, and the policies and measures for the staff should the staff develop symptoms following the service of an ill person.
  • If possible, designate one bathroom for use only by the ill person.
  • Request the ill person to wear a mask and practice respiratory hygiene when coughing and sneezing.
  • In case the ill person cannot wear a mask, direct contact with the ill person should be avoided unless wearing at least disposable gown, gloves, a mask, and eye protection.
  • When attending to an ill guest or staff coming from an affected area who displays fever, persistent cough, or difficulty breathing, always use additional protective equipment including mask, eye protection, gloves, and a gown.
  • Remove PPE carefully to avoid contaminating yourself.
  • Properly dispose of gloves and other disposable items that had contact with the ill person’s body fluids in biohazard bag or a secured plastic bag, which will be considered as “biohazard” waste.

Case of an affected worker

If a member of the staff reports respiratory symptoms, the worker must immediately stop work and seek medical assistance. The staff should stay isolated in a suitable room while the medical services are being notified.

The symptomatic worker should be provided with disposable tissues and a mask that should be worn when other persons are present or when having to go out to common areas.

Staff who report from home that they are ill with respiratory symptoms should be advised to stay at home and seek medical attention.

Case of an affected guest

If the person affected is a guest of the tourism accommodation establishment, continued stay of the sick person in the establishment is recommended. No visitors should be permitted to enter the room occupied by the affected guest.

Depending on the availability of rooms, accompanying persons, if any, should be moved to a different room.

Hotel and tourism accommodation establishment staff taking part in the evacuation of a suspected case:

  • In order to minimize the risk of contaminating other guests or members of the staff, symptomatic guests should leave the hotel according to instructions from the management of the establishment and Ministry of Health. Symptomatic guess will be assessed for their condition and, if they fulfil the definition of a suspected case, they will have to be isolated to their Hotel/Tourism Accommodations
  • Management of the possible contacts of the sick guest should take place in accordance with instructions from the Ministry of Health.
  • The hotel management should provide access to services for cleaning and disinfection of the room occupied by the sick person in accordance with action plan, following the cleaning and disinfection protocols for rooms with cases. In case that this is not possible, the on-duty housekeeper should be instructed to clean and disinfect the room occupied by the sick person, following the cleaning and disinfection protocols for rooms with cases and observing personal protective measures.

A sick guest who is suspected of COVID-19 should stay in an individual room, except in the case of children or persons requiring caretakers. The sick person should not receive visitors, or if they do, visits should be limited to what is strictly necessary. The guest should receive food in the room. Sick persons should not share a bathroom with other persons, and neither should they share towels, blankets, or any type of clothing with their caretakers

Caretakers should self-monitor for the appearance of symptoms, especially fever and cough, and receive medical attention if such symptoms appear.

The clothing of the sick patient, as well as the linen of the room he or she occupies, should be washed following the usual procedures. As a precautionary measure, these items should be stored and transported in sealed bags.

Identification and management of contacts

Identification of contacts should begin immediately after a suspected case has been identified in the establishment.

In the context of a hotel and tourism accommodation establishment, a contact could be considered as:

  • Guest companions or persons providing care who had close contact with the suspected case;
  • The staff member designated to look after the ill persons, and other staff members who may have been in close contact with the ill persons or the facilities they use (e.g. bathroom) or their usual articles (e.g. used linen and clothes).

If the severity of the symptoms or numerous movements of the case(s) indicate more extensive exposure in the establishment, a more thorough assessment should be done together with the Ministry of Health.

Non-affected guests

Non-affected guests are persons considered to have had a low-risk exposure. They should be provided with information about the disease, its transmission, and preventive measures. They should be asked to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing for 14 days from the date of departure of the confirmed case from the establishment. Should they develop symptoms indicative of COVID-19 within 14 days, they should be asked to immediately self-isolate and contact Ministry of Health.

Suppliers of goods and services

Contractors and suppliers of goods and services should follow safe systems of work and also have systems in place for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

Social Distancing must be implemented throughout the hotel and tourism accommodations at all times.

These guidelines may be periodically updated by the Ministry of Health.