Interministerial Ordinance No. 14 – Prevention, Control and Mitigation of COVID-19 Transmission Risks in Work Environments

The Interministerial Ordinance MTP/MS No. 14 was published on January 25, 2022. It is a joint act of the Ministry of Labor and Welfare in Brazil (“Ministério do Trabalho e Previdência” or “MTP”) and the Ministry of Health (“Ministério da Saúde” or “MS”) that provides general guidelines for prevention, control and mitigation of the risks of transmission of COVID-19 in work environments, amending Attachment I of Joint Ordinance No. 20, of June 18, 2020.

Among the main updates, there was an increase in the list of situations that should be considered as confirmed cases of COVID-19, which are:

  1. Influenza syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome, as defined by the Ministry of Health, associated with anosmia (olfactory dysfunction) or acute ageusia (gustatory dysfunction) with no other previous cause, and for which it was not possible to confirm COVID-19 by another criteria;
  2. Influenza syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome, with a history of close or home contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to the appearance of signs and symptoms;
  3. Influenza syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome, with a laboratory test result that confirms COVID-19, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health;
  4. Asymptomatic individual with a laboratory test result that confirms COVID-19, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health; or
  5. Influenza syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome, or death from severe acute respiratory syndrome for which it was not possible to confirm COVID-19 by laboratory criteria, but with changes in lung imaging tests suggestive of COVID-19, according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health.

An employee with influenza syndrome is defined by the ordinance as one who presents at least two of the following symptoms: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, olfactory gustatory disorders, chills, sore throat and headache, runny nose or diarrhea.

Furthermore, an employee with severe acute respiratory syndrome is considered to be one who, in addition to the symptoms of influenza syndrome, presents: i) dyspnea or respiratory discomfort or persistent pressure or pain in the chest; and ii) oxygen saturation lower than 95 percent in room air or a bluish discoloration (cyanosis) of the lips or face.

There was a reduction in the period of absence from in-office activities for the employee considered to be a confirmed case of COVID-19, from 14 to 10 days, that can even be reduced to seven days in cases where the employee has not had a fever for 24 hours, without use of antipyretic drugs and remission of respiratory signs and symptoms.

The absence from in-office activities for the employee that had close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now only 10 days and can be reduced to seven days if the employee tests negative for COVID-19 from the fifth day after contact.

Close contact for the asymptomatic employee who had contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 is considered to be between two days before and 10 days after the onset of symptoms of the case in which the employee: i) had contact for more than 15 minutes less than one meter (three feet) apart without both wearing a face mask or using it incorrectly; ii) had direct physical contact with a person with a suspected case; or iii) shared a home environment with a suspected case, including dormitories and accommodation.

The Interministerial Ordinance provides that it is at the discretion of the employer to adopt the remote work regime for an employee aged 60 or over or the ones that are considered a risk group for COVID-19. In these cases, if the employer chooses to keep the employee working in-office, it must offer surgical masks or PFF2 (N95)-type masks.

Previously, Ordinance No. 20/2020 provided that the entry of people into the establishment was conditional to the use of protective masks, a measure that is excluded from the current text. In addition, the ordinance provides for an increase in time, from three to four hours, for employees to replace their mask (fabric or surgical).

Finally, the rules for hygiene and use of cafeterias and changing rooms were loosened, and there is no longer a requirement to monitor the flow of entry into changing rooms.