The ICMAB resumes its scientific activity, suspended due to Covid-19
The ICMAB has started this week to resume the scientific activity in the laboratories that were stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This week the Metropolitan Area containing Bellaterra and the UAB Campus has passsed to the advanced phase zero (phase 0.5), so researchers and other workers considered to be "non-essential" can start to return to their workplaces. The return will be at a slow pace, but we are very happy to be able to do so!
A new Contingency Plan
The ICMAB Technical Permanent Committee, as part of the Health and Safety Committee has drawn up a Contingency Plan for going back to work. The mainobjectives of the Contingency Plan against SARS-CoV-2 are to prevent infection caused by the virus at the ICMAB, efficiently respond to new cases, and plan the progressive reincorporation of the staff.
The Contingency Plan stablishes the new protocol and preventive measures that will be implemented at the ICMAB and hat we will have to face when returning back to our workplaces. In addition to contemplating the use of masks or hydroalcoholic gels, the Contingency Plan establishes limitations on the capacity of offices and laboratories and indications on the use of common spaces.
"The pandemic has been a tough experience, both personal and professional, that we will not forget. The joy of returning to be with our colleagues is immense, but we return a little more humble. We've been hit by a nanometetric virus. We thought that we were much stronger and confident than what we really are. We must never forget that" affirms Xavier Obradors, ICMAB Director.
Figure 1: Xavier Obradors (Director), Oriol Sabater (Head of Maintenance) and Joan Figuerola (Head of IT), on Wednesday, 20 May 2020, at the ICMAB.
Back to work: who and when
"In any case, the number of staff allowed at the ICMAB will not exceed 50 % at this stage" explains Xavier Obradors. "On Wednesday , 20 May 2020, there were around 30-40 people, and it will grow gradually up to 70-80 people for the next days and weeks, all of them working either in the Reserach Groups laboratories, or in the Scientific Services laboratories" continues.
The Research Groups with people doing experiments in the lab have made schedules for everyday, dividing the shifts between morning and afternoon, so everyone can do their experiments and advance in their work, while maintaining the laboratories capacity at 50 %. Any work that can be done in the office will be done from home. However, offices have also been reduced its capacity to 50 %.
"What a great joy to go back to work and see our young researchers in labcoats, glasses and mask (now for an additional reason). What a pity that I cannot hug them all!" says Xavier Obradors. "Talking to them I can see that they are passionate about their work and that they have missed coming to the labs".
Researchers who do not need to go to the lab will stay at home, for the moment, and work from their home computers. Also researchers that are vulnerable (older than 60 years old, pregnant or with previous medical condtions) will reamain at home, and only allowed to go to the ICMAB if approved by an evaluation committee.
The group meetings, and other communication tasks within the group will continue by teleconference. It is only possible to have small meetings (2-3 people) to exchange opinions, but always maintaining the distances and wearing masks.
Scientific and Technical Services staff
"The Scientific and Technical Services (SCT) are essential to recover normality", says Xavier Obradors. OnThursday, 21 May 2020, it is planned that the the technicians will set up the laboratories and on Friday, 22 May 2020, they will be open the labs for all researchers.
The SCT laboratories will operate for the time being with reduced staff, taking turns when possible, and limiting personal contact with the researchers that make use of the service. All the comunication between researchers and technicians will be done telematically and the transfer of results and material samples will be done without direct contact. The protocol in most SCT will have to be adapted to the new situation.
Reserach support staff
At this phase, everyone who can telework must continue to do so. Therefore, most of the people working in administration, technology transfer, project managing and communication will do 100 % telework from home, at least in these first phases. Most meetings are by teleconference. If it is necessary to maintain personal contact with someone, it is possible if the distance is maintaned and all the safety measures are taken. However, during this phase, virtual meetings are still recommended.
During the lockdown, the Maintenance Servcie has been going to the ICMAB and has prepared the building doing some reparations that needed to be done, and controlling that the equipment and installations were working fine. They also prepared the reception with a new methacrylate protection screen, and put signs in all labs and offices doors with the recommended capacity. The Cleaning Service has also been working during the lockdown, and will continue to do so at an intense level, to ensure that all the surfaces are clean and disinfected.
How to arrive to the ICMAB?
The Contingency Plan also includes some Annexes with additional information. For example, regarding the way to arrive to the ICMAB, it recommends to prioritize mobility options that best guarantee the interpersonal distance of 2 meters, such as car, motorcylce, bike or walking. If using the public transport, it is very important to maintain the distance with the other users, to use masks and to wash hands upon arrival to the workplace.
The rest of the UAB Campus University and Reserach Centers laboratories have also started to resume their activities this week. Little by little, the Campus scientific activity is coming back!
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