An official does a thermal screening of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in Parliament House in New Delhi as a part of the measures to tackle coronavirus on 18 March 2020 | Arun Sharma | PTI
An official does a thermal screening of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in Parliament House in New Delhi as a part of the measures to tackle coronavirus on 18 March 2020 | Arun Sharma | PTI
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New Delhi: Thermal scans, immediate check-ups in case of fever, generous granting of leave, work-from-home (WFH) for staff, regular sanitisation and fumigation of premises, and limited entry of visitors inside offices — these are some of the basic measures government offices in the capital have put in place to keep staff safe from coronavirus.

As the active cases of COVID-19 rose to nearly 150 in the country, the Narendra Modi government announced WFH for 50 per cent of its Group B and Group C staff.

According to an Office Memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) Thursday, “Heads of Department (HoDs) may ensure that 50 per cent of Group B and C employees are required to attend office every day, and the remaining 50 per cent staff should be instructed to work from home.”

The memorandum said the staff in office should be rotated on a weekly basis, and added, “While deciding the roster for the first week, HoDs are advised to include officials who are residing in close proximity to their office or use their own transport to travel to the offices.”

While personnel working from home are expected to be on call and come to offices whenever required, for those already coming to the office have been divided into three shifts to avoid over-crowding.

Also read: Karnataka’s Kalaburagi first district to be locked down after India’s first COVID-19 death

Curbing infectious rumours

The advisory comes two days after the DoPT, in another advisory dated 17 March, asked employees to not spread any rumours about the highly contagious infection.

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“… All government offices are taking basic precautions of checking the temperature of anyone who enters the office building, regular sanitisation and fumigation, granting leaves when someone reports the slightest symptoms, not allowing visitors, etc.,” said a senior government functionary who did not want to be named.

“In case a visitor records abnormal temperature, they are sent back home. In case it is a government staff, we send them to our own doctors,” the official added.

“But the government is not doing any special testing for government officials — this is something that impacts everyone equally, so there cannot be discrimination in testing,” he said.

Another official said all meetings were either being conducted on phone or video-conferencing. “We ourselves make sure that more than 3-4 people don’t assemble in the room at once … Of course, work has taken a hit to some extent, but this is something that merits a rethinking of priorities temporarily,” the official said.

Also read: Skill ministry employee claims his mother is COVID 19-positive, later says it was a rumour

Focus on families too

While there have been no explicit guidelines, senior officials said they have been directed to ensure their families also adhere to all government-recommended precautions, said the second official quoted above.

“Not just the senior officials who occupy crucial posts, but even those related to them are being advised to observe as many precautions,” the official said. “In an emergency of this magnitude, the government cannot afford the spread of the virus within itself.”

Only a day ago, a contractual employee of the skill ministry claimed his mother tested positive for COVID-19. According to a statement issued by the ministry, “The concerned individual along with others who he interacted with, have been asked to self-quarantine themselves at their residence. Their health will be closely watched for further symptoms.”

“At this stage we are following government guidelines very strictly,” said the first official. “But one must remember that the government cannot distinguish between its own staff and others … So no special arrangements can be done in one office or place.”

India recorded at least 10 new cases Thursday, including seven Indonesians in Telangana. The Army also registered its first COVID 19 case on Wednesday. A jawan in Leh contracted the virus from his father who had recently travelled to Iran.

In a bid to expand testing for coronavirus, the Modi government has also allowed private labs to test people.

Also read: No new cases in China to clean Venice waters — the latest on COVID-19


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