Meet the Public Health Unit's environmental health workers keeping us safe from COVID-19

COVID army: The Public Health Unit's Environmental Health Team members Alex Kiss, Toni Cains, Brian Huang, Jody Houston and Tiana Parashko. Picture: Supplied
COVID army: The Public Health Unit's Environmental Health Team members Alex Kiss, Toni Cains, Brian Huang, Jody Houston and Tiana Parashko. Picture: Supplied

A team from South Eastern Sydney Local Health District's Public Health Unit has visited more than 360 businesses over the past two months to advise them about safe operating practices during the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the environmental health team have provided face-to-face education and support to about 360 businesses, including gyms, beauticians, massage parlours, nail salons, art galleries, cinemas, community sports facilities and major sports venues during July and August.

They also work closely with other agencies, such as the Office of Liquor and Gaming, and NSW Police.

The Public Health Unit's director Professor Mark Ferson said the environmental health officers were experts in preventive health.

"Our job is to prevent people getting sick and requiring hospitalisation," he said.

"It's a different kind of frontline health work."

Some businesses are required by law to register a COVID-19 Safety Plan under the government's Public Health Orders. These include gyms; all hospitality venues, such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs, small bars, cellar doors, breweries, distilleries, karaoke bars, strip clubs, function centres and casinos; funeral homes and crematoriums and places of public worship.

All other businesses are encouraged to have a COVID Safety Plan in place and register as COVID Safe.

The plans detail how businesses will address staff and customer well-being, physical distancing, customer registration and cleaning and hygiene.

Information and templates for each business type are available on the NSW Government website.

Many COVID-19 resources have also been translated into other languages.

Professor Ferson said having a reliable register of staff and customers who have visited the premises was important in the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

He said that in addition to the measures outlined in the COVID Safety Plans, NSW Health "strongly encouraged hospitality workers to wear masks as they have contact with many people and may not be able to physically distance".

"Control of the COVID-19 pandemic requires a strong, collective, community response," he said.

"We thank those in the community who are doing their best and encourage them to keep going."

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