Since the implementation of the Royal Decree-Law 463/2020 declaring the State of Emergency on March 14 in order to manage the health crisis caused by COVID-19, everyone is obliged to follow the main preventive measures put into action by the Department of Health, like home confinement as one of the basic recommendations. Faced with this situation, many residents and property owners want to know what actions should they take in their communities to prevent the spread of the virus among neighbours or what is the correct use of their common areas.
“It is important to note that since we are the transmitters of the COVID-19, the same amount of virus be spread on the streets as inside a property”, explains Andreu Abelló, Forcadell’s Director of Community of Owners Management. In fact, there is a clear pattern: the more human contact there is, the higher the risk."
Below we highlight 7 basic recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus in case there has been an outbreak in a neighborhood community. Prevention measures are also to be implemented even if no case of COVID-19 has been declared in the building.
1. Maintaining social distance from all neighbours
The distance recommended by health authorities to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is two meters, and should be kept both among people who are officially infected and those who are apparently free of the virus. It is essential, therefore, to maintain security measures with people who transit the common areas (portals, access doors and stairs) with by both neighbours and property employees: janitors, cleaners, maintenance personnel, etc.
2. Use the elevator only in essential cases
It is recommended to prioritize the use of stairs and use the elevator only in those cases that it is essential. The use of stairs is not only healthier because it involves physical activity, but also avoids risks of contact with the virus. In the cases the elevator must be used, it is recommended that it be used individually and that gloves are used to touch any surface (such as the button that indicates the floor of the building).
3. Do not access the common areas
To avoid possible infections between neighbours, the containment regulations of COVID-19 prohibits the use of common areas such as gardens, swimming pools, parks, roofs or any other element that is part of the neighborhood community of owners. The garage and parking spaces can be accessed only to use to the car in essential occasions, but in no case to drive to practice sports in it or any recreational activity. Failure to comply with this regulation can lead to several fines and to up to 3 months in prison for a crime of disobedience.
4. Inform the community of owners manager
If a case of COVID-19 infection has occurred in the community of owners, the manager should be informed immediately so that s/he can coordinate the new measures that the cleaning and maintenance teams of the property must adopt. “Our mission as mangers is to ensure that our clients can stay at home while we maintain the normal functioning of the property within this exceptional situation ”, indicates Andreu Abelló. The manager will notify the cleaning services to carry out the protocol measures for disinfection of the common areas, will coordinate the closure of those common areas and spaces that would be considered necessary and will provide sanitary and preventive recommendations so that the neighbours can place these recommendations in visible places around the community. S/he will also be in charge, as usual, of the correct functioning of those common services that the community of owners has contracted.
5. Cleaning and disinfection of common areas
The WHO and the ECDC explain that the two main ways of transmission of the COVID-19 are through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces. Therefore, the cleaning service must carry out an exhaustive protocol to clean and disinfect all those surfaces that may be contaminated due to having been in contact with the sick person. The survival time of the virus depends on a number of factors, including the type of surface, temperature and humidity, but with the use of suitable disinfectants it is thought that the virus can be inactivated in 1-5 minutes. Recommended disinfectants, to be used by cleaning services in community areas and neighbours in their own homes are 70% ethyl alcohol to disinfect small areas and 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (equivalent to 5000 ppm) to disinfect larger surfaces.
6. Postponement of community of owners meeting
During the days of confinement, the community of owners meetings should be suspended. In case specific emergencies should arise, alternative options can be chosen, without holding on-site meetings.
7. Make sure the neighbor has his/hers basic needs covered
Making sure that the neighbor infected by covid-19 has his/hers basic needs covered and can be confined correctly will help, on the one hand, to contain the virus on the property (since s/he will not be forced to go outside) and on the other, will facilitate and alleviate the rough time that the neighbor may be experiencing in these difficult days. “In the event that it is decided to help the sick person by providing them with household materials or food”, Abelló emphasizes, “all safety measures must be taken into account so as not to expose ourselves to being infected.