The Centre on Thursday directed some sections of its employees to work from home and introduced three different timings for others till April 4 to contain the spreading coronavirus. So far, 166 people have been infected in India, three of whom have died.

“The heads of department may ensure that 50% of Group B and C employees are required to attend office every day and the remaining 50% staff should be instructed to work from home,” an order issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said.

The order advised the heads of departments to draft a weekly roster for Group B and C employees –
who make up for the overwhelming majority of the 48 lakh staff – and to ask them to go to office in alternate weeks. “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,” it added.

The working hours for all employees who attend office on a particular day should be staggered, it said. “It is suggested that three groups of employees may be formed and they are asked to attend office at three time slots – 9 am to 5.30 pm, 9.30 am to 6 pm and 10 am to 6.30 pm,” the ministry said.

Also read: Indian government is closing private spaces – but keeping its own offices open

On Wednesday, the Department of Personnel and Training put out a statement that detailed precautions to be taken at central government offices. It ordered the installation of thermal screening equipment at entry points and that hand sanitisers be provided. The entry of visitors was to be restricted and those showing flu-like symptoms should were advised to leave the office premises.

However, several employees had expressed concern at the disregard for the health of government workers.

Many state governments have shut down public spaces, such as malls, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools, and urged citizens to refrain from large gatherings. People have also been encouraged to work from home in order to minimise contact. Experts have said people must practice social distancing and avoid groups of more than 10 people to slow the spread of the pandemic.