The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted planned programmes and activities in unforeseen ways. While UNSD and UNFPA jointly recommend the postponement of census as most prudent, a key priority for countries proceeding with the 2020 census round is to reduce the risk of transmission for all census personnel, and for the general public. A crucial component of reducing the risk of transmission is the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during census activities.
Consultation with select UNFPA country offices shows that the list of PPEs procured for census varies considerably between countries, and may include face masks (respirator masks (FFP2/N95), medical masks, reusable cloth masks), latex sterile gloves, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and spray, thermometers and face shields.
It is advised that governments must choose the types of PPE procured for the protection of their population, in consultation with national health authorities, and in light of WHO guidelines. This is because the risks of COVID-19 transmission are unique to each national context, and keeping in mind that governments have deployed varied responses to COVID-19. Provisions to limit transmission risks during census will be shaped by the prevailing government strategies for containing the pandemic. At the same time, the capacity for adequate testing capacity and data to track transmission risks with certainty varies widely between countries.
Key considerations for National Statistical Offices:
1. For the deployment of field staff, the National Statistical Authority should conduct a detailed risk assessment, including the need for personal protective equipment and procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19;
2. Census authorities should confer with national health authorities on the need to align PPE requirements for census with other COVID-19 national operational plans;
3. Monitor the updates on the use of protective gear issued by WHO and ensure that the census authorities are fully briefed on these;
4. Census authorities to institute a Standing Committee with the Ministry of Health and other relevant bodies at the national level to ensure the most effective protective measures and protocols that are in line with national circumstance.