Recommendations on handling paper records during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, 27 May, 2020

In accordance with Section 13(1) of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act No.43 of 1996, as amended) the National Archivist is charged with the proper management and care of all public records in the custody of governmental bodies.
In terms of this legal mandate the following measures are recommended to governmental bodies to ensure the containing of the COVID-19 virus when paper records at risk of being contaminated with COVID-19 virus are managed, sorted or handled:
- To ensure the safety of staff all paper documents should be handled with care to avoid the risk of contamination;
- Staff must wear gloves and masks when handling documents;
- After handling these documents, the staff should wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds or sanitize them;
- It is recommended that all incoming paper documents at the risk of contamination from COVID-19 virus should be quarantined for at least 72 hours;
- During this period the documents should be placed in boxes, sealed and date marked and where possible stored in a separate location;
- As soon as the 72-hour quarantine period has passed the documents can be processed;
- Arrange furniture so that officials working with paper documents are situated at least 2 metres from each other;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth immediately after handling documents;
- General environmental cleaning and disinfection of all storage areas should be encouraged regularly;
- Liquid disinfectants are usually harmful to paper and should not be used on paper documents. If uncertain as what to do, please contact the relevant authorities at the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa;
- Surfaces where paper records at risk of being contaminated with COVID-19 virus are managed, sorted or handled should be disinfected at least twice a day;
- Ensure that pest control is done regularly to avoid pests breeding in the storage areas;
- Consumption of food while handling documents is prohibited; and
- Electronic Document and Records Management systems for the newly created records is highly encouraged.
Please note that in terms of the Section 13(2) (a) of the above Act, no public record under the control of a governmental body shall be transferred to an archive’s repository, destroyed, erased or otherwise disposed of without the written authorisation of the National Archivist. In other words, the possibility of records being contaminated with the COVID-19 virus does not allow any governmental body to destroy records without a disposal authority issued by the National Archivist.

Published date: 
Wednesday, 27 May, 2020