Wednesday, 18 May, 2022
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Army HQ orders reduced attendance in offices, no face-to-face meetings as Covid cases rise

Army's new instructions, coming into effect from Monday, call for conduct of all meetings via phone calls or video conferences.

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New Delhi: The Army headquarters has come up with a fresh set of rules to limit attendance in its offices and stop face-to-face meetings, even as the entire defence ministry headquarters building in South Block is being sanitised after after Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has also been working from home for the past few days. While nearly 35 officials working at the ministry headquarters have been sent on home quarantine, sources in the ministry told ThePrint that Singh is likely to attend office from Monday.

The new rules drafted by the Indian Army headquarters include reduction in attendance and prohibition on face-to-face meetings to control the spread of the highly infectious viral disease. The new guidelines have come days after the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) told the three services that personnel should return to their units at the earliest from leaves.

The rules have come also after reports about increasing number of positive Covid cases in the Army.

The military headquarters and the government offices had reopened days before ‘Unlock 1.0’, or the phase-wise withdrawal of the two-month-long Covid-19 lockdown, began Monday, 1 June.

In the ministries, staff below the rank of deputy secretaries were asked to attend offices maintaining 50 per cent strength, while 100 per cent attendance was made compulsory for  officials above the rank of deputy secretary.

The number of Covid-19 positive cases in government buildings, however, has only gone up since then.

Also read: Chinese troops present in sizeable numbers at LAC, India has done what’s needed: Rajnath

Army’s new instructions 

The Army’s new Covid-19 instructions, which will come into effect from Monday, call for conduct of all meetings via phone calls or video conferences.

Branches such as Military Operations, Military Intelligence, Operational Logistics will function at 33 per cent attendance and for a minimum duration.

The Military Secretary branch, Staff Duties, Military Training and Financial Planning directorates, administration and coordination will function with only 15 per cent attendance.

In the Adjutant General’s branch, only the section dealing with coronavirus-related work will function, while the DGMS Army (the medical wing) will function with full strength to ensure adequate Covid-19 related responses.

Other directorates will work from home, except for emergencies.

The instructions also state that all other personnel, including officers and other ranks, who stay outside cantonments and government accommodations will work from home.

The command headquarters have been asked to put in place health measures according to the guidelines issued by various state governments.

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Army instructions issued after rising infections

India has been grappling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, with Sunday alone recording 9,971 new infections, taking the country’s tally to 2.46 lakh and 6,929 deaths. The military too has reported several positive cases.

Early last month, 24 people admitted to the Army Hospital (Research And Referral) at the Delhi Cantonment had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Indian Navy’s INS Angre had reported Covid-19 cases among 26 sailors in April. And sources have now said that 12 more had tested positive since then. This week, 16 trainee sailors of the Indian Navy also tested positive in Gujarat.

Lt Gen. Anup Banerji, director general of the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), had told ThePrint earlier this month that “the armed forces cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of the country” while dealing with Covid-19 cases.

Rising cases in Lutyens’ Delhi

With an increasing number of positive cases being reported from government buildings across central Delhi, the Department of Personnel and Training had, on 5 June, issued a memorandum for all ministries, asking for strict adherence to social distancing norms and other hygiene practices.

As many as 10 central government buildings were sealed in the last two months after staff and many senior ministry officials tested positive for Covid-19.

In the last one month, over 10 positive cases have been reported in government offices, most of which are located in central Delhi. Several positive cases were detected in the labour and employment ministry’s office at Shram Shakti Bhavan too.

Many officials in the finance ministry, located in North Block, as well as in Shastri Bhavan which houses several ministries have also tested positive for coronavirus. At Nirman Bhavan, which houses the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, at least half a dozen health ministry officials have been down with the virus.

Last week, a Niti Aayog official had tested positive for the virus, following which the building’s third floor was sealed. Earlier, two officials from the Ministry of External Affairs had tested positive for Covid-19.

There have been over two dozen Covid-19 positive cases across ministries in the last one month.

Also read: Indian Navy set to open up its ‘men-only’ police branch to women officers, seeks volunteers


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