ILVO remains operational during the Corona crisis. "Our teams are working at the maximum allowed capacity, including our collaborations with farms and companies". Those who can work from home (nearly 2/3 of the employees) are required to do so. For those working in the labs, workshops, greenhouses, stables, trial fields and who work on the move, extensive measures have been taken against the spread of the virus.
ILVO’s written protocols and supporting videos ensure that every employee is fully protected and that system errors are avoided. Those videos are now made public. "It is possible that the agri-food companies or any working environment where work is restarting could find them helpful for training staff.”
ILVO now has more than 2,500 homemade reusable cotton face masks for internal use, the result of a pool of ILVO volunteers in a sewing team. These reusable masks, fitted with a sterile filter, ensure ILVO operations in case of shortages in disposable protective material.
The ‘hurdle principle’ in the workplace
As protection, we apply the 'hurdle principle' known in microbiology. This means that not one measure in itself is protective, but a combination of a whole package of measures is needed to provide sufficient protection.
This presentation by Lieve Herman, Unit Head of ILVO’s Technology and Food Science Unit, clarifies the situation in Belgium and the approach at ILVO. Watch the presentation by ILVO Unit Head Lieve Herman (in Dutch): https://youtu.be/XYOHvw7BmHc.
Each of these measures is important: keeping distance, staying at home when sick, extreme discipline in hygiene of people and environment, checking external visitors for behavior and fever, maximizing telework. And... facial protection if social distancing cannot be maintained when performing certain tasks.
Reusable face masks
ILVO uses, among other things, reusable face masks. "The masks are an extra hurdle." Our procedures have been filmed and are now made publicly available on YouTube (hyperlinks below). "This can be an inspiration for the production floor in the companies in our sector."
It is recommended to wear a face mask plus safety glasses or a face screen. Currently, if it is not possible to maintain social distance, wearing a mask is mandatory. The main function of the cotton mask is to be a hurdle for droplets and aerosol from the mouth. Optionally, a filter for purifying air can be inserted.
Here are links to the videos of our procedures
The written protocols are also available in English and in French.
Karen Verstraeten, Communication for the Food Pilot, Karen.Verstraete@ilvo.vlaanderen.be, M. +32 485 20 95 27
Greet Riebbels, ILVO-Communication, Greet.Riebbels@ilvo.vlaanderen.be, M. +32 486 26 00 14