A view of the Secretariat Building, with Members States’ flags flying in the foreground, at United Nations headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Cleaning in HQ Buildings

Key Points

  • The campus and the associated UN buildings are essentially closed to all but essential staff.
  • Since the shut-down, cleaning has been focused on floors that are occupied – any use of additional floors should be notified to the Facilities and Commercial Activities Service (FCAS).
  • Areas that are in use – operations center, broadcast rooms, the medical service etc - are actively cleaned after use and in some cases also before use.
  • A detailed plan for infection control in buildings will be developed and notified to staff prior to a general return to UN buildings.

Part of the Organization’s duty of care is to provide a safe and healthy workplace, free of hazards. The organization meets this need by having a comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing the likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19. Even during this full shut-down, some staff may be working in the Secretariat campus or in UN buildings around NYC. Note that simple disinfectant is sufficient to clean an area, that walls and soft furnishings do not need to be cleaned unless clearly soiled, and that widespread spraying or ‘fogging’ is not recommended.


In the Secretariat: Since the shut-down, cleaning has been focused on floors that are occupied

In other building around NYC: The cleaning and maintenance may be under the control of FMSCAS or be contracted by the building separately but generally follow the same measures as in the Secretariat.

Prior to the shutdown, the following measures were implemented:

  • Trash collection increased
  • High use surfaces cleaned more frequently, including by a ‘roving’ team cleaning door handles, screening areas, elevator buttons and escalator handrails, and other surfaces in heavily trafficked areas.
  • Upgraded hospital strength disinfectant spray is being used for wiping down surfaces.
  • Approximately 40 additional hand sanitizing stations have been installed across the campus – bringing the total to 142 dispensers. Sanitizer itself may become in short supply nationwide, in which case use soap and water for 20 seconds instead.

Actions - If you are still using the building and have questions on cleaning contact FCAS.


Cafeterias are closed.

Flexible workspace

Note there is no indication that a shared workspace is likely to have more risk than a regular space except where physical distance is reduced.

Actions - All essential staff using a FWS should clean the workspace with a disinfecting wipe prior to use, and if possible, sit one desk further away from others.

Meeting rooms

The cleaning regime above is likely to be sufficient to reduce the risk in any meeting rooms still in use. The highest risk from a meeting room is overcrowding, which is unlikely during the shut-down.

Actions - If someone is coughing or has a respiratory illness in a meeting room, move away and request FCAS to clean the area. Always choose to attend virtually if that is possible. Consider cleaning the work area in front of you with a disinfecting wipe prior to use and sit one seat further away from others if possible


COVID-19 infection is spread by droplets, either through coughing, sneezing, or from hands to surfaces. Outdoor areas have less risk than crowded indoor areas, in part due to ventilation. However in most buildings changing the airflow in recirculated air systems does not change the risk as droplets fall to a surface within 1 or 2 meters – they are not able to travel through ventilation systems in place in most large buildings, and will not spread in the ventilation systems in the HQ given the filtering and airflow capabilities in place.