Health Ministry’s new workplace guidelines:  As India entered the fourth phase of its nationwide lockdown with relaxations and offices and working places opening, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued guidelines on preventive and response measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in workplace settings.

According to the new workplace guidelines, there is no need to close the entire office building and stall work in other areas of the office, and work can be resumed after disinfection as per laid down protocol if there are one or two cases of coronavirus reported. 

If there’s a larger outbreak, the entire building will have to be closed for 48 hours and employees can resume work after thorough disinfection, the ministry said while issuing the guidelines on preventive measures to contain the spread of coronavirus in the workplace settings. “All the staff will work from home, till the building is adequately disinfected and is declared fit for re-occupation.” 

As per the guidelines on preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in workplace settings, It stated that any staff reportedly suffering from a flu-like illness should not attend office and seek medical advice from local health authorities. Such persons, if diagnosed as a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19 should immediately inform office authorities.

“Any staff requesting home quarantine based on the containment zone activities in their residential areas should be permitted to work from home. DoPT guidelines with respect to organizing meetings, coordinating visitors shall be scrupulously followed,” the guidelines stated.

The high-risk exposure contacts will be quarantined for 14 days and they will follow the guidelines on home quarantine and undergo testing as per ICMR protocol while low-risk exposure contacts shall continue to work and closely monitor their health for next 14 days, the ministry stated in the guidelines.

Offices and other workplaces have a relatively close setting, with shared spaces like corridors, elevators & stairs, parking, cafeteria, meeting rooms and conference halls, etc and thus, the risk of contagion is much higher, the government said.

“The essential principles of risk assessment, isolation, and quarantine of contacts, case referral and management will remain the same. However, the scale of arrangements will be higher,” the guidelines added.

The government has asked offices to ensure that its employees and visitors follow the basic preventive measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

The Union health ministry has said that physical distancing of at least one meter should be maintained at all times and made using face masks mandatory.