Infection prevention and control during health care when COVID-19 is suspected

WHO. Infection prevention and control during health care when novel coronavirus (‎‎‎nCoV)‎‎‎ infection is suspected: interim guidance. 2020, March 19

Review written by:

Gabriel Pomerantz, edited by Elizabeth Harty

Green - This WHO document provides interim guidance on infection and prevention control (IPC) for COVID-19 (as of March 19, 2020).

This is a  technical paper from the WHO designed to establish IPC strategies to limit and prevent transmission of COVID-19 in health care settings. The strategies include:

1) ensure triage, early recognition (updated WHO case definitions:, and source control (isolating patients with suspected COVID-19);

2) apply standard precautions of hand and respiratory hygiene for all patients (WHO’s “My 5 Moments for Hand Hygeine";

3) implement additional empiric precautions (contact and droplet and, whenever applicable, airborne precautions) for suspected cases of COVID-19;

4) implement administrative controls (build training and education resources for safety and protections of community and health care workers); and

5) use environmental and engineering controls (focus on infrastructure, including ventilation, cleaning, and waste management).

Additional information includes:

  • Apply standard precautions until the patient is asymptomatic.

  • Specimen collection should take necessary biosafety measures (including, but not limited to: label “Suspect COVID-19” and hand deliver, do not use the pneumatic tube delivery system)

  • Outpatient care should adhere to the same IPC protocols

Review Notes

The following protocols are interim guidance only as of 19 March 2020.

2. These establish baseline protocols that will require incorporation of location specific practices.

3.  The WHO continues to monitor the situation closely for any changes that may affect this interim guidance. Should any factors change, WHO will issue a further update.  Otherwise, this interim guidance document will expire 2 years after the date of publication.

4. This document is a supplement to the WHO’s "Infection prevention and control of epidemic-and pandemic prone acute respiratory infections in health care" (April 2014).

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