The central government has issued fresh guidelines for its officials and staffers on attending office and the conduct of activities therein, given the continuing rise in coronavirus cases around the country, ANI reported on Tuesday. The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions issued the circular on June 5, listing fresh protocols to be followed.

The guidelines said that only asymptomatic staff should be allowed to attend work, and that anyone with even a mild cold, cough or fever should stay home. The government also said that not more than 20 staff or officers should attend office in a day. “Roster will be reworked accordingly,” it said. “Remaining staff will continue to work from home.”

The circular added that staff who live in containment zones should not come to work until the zone is denotified.

The guidelines said that if undersecretaries and deputy secretaries share a cabin, they will come to work on alternate days. “Face masks and face shields should be worn at all times inside the office,” the order added. “Disciplinary action will be taken if this is not followed.” The government said that used face masks and gloves should be thrown into the wastepaper basket only.

The Centre advised staff to avoid face-to-face meetings as far as possible. It said employees should use intercom, phone or videoconferencing for meetings.

“Hand washing every half an hour is a must to prevent spread of the infection,” the new guidelines said. “Hand sanitisers must be installed at prominent places in corridors. Frequently touched places like switches, door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, etc, should be cleaned every hour.”

The Centre also said that it has asked government staff to clean equipment like keyboards, mouse, phone and air conditioner remotes by using an ethanol-based disinfectant on a regular basis.

“A distance of 1 metre should be maintained while sitting or walking,” the guidelines said. “Visitors’ chairs in the cabins of the offices shall accordingly be placed keeping the norms of social distancing.”

There have been several cases of the coronavirus in government departments over the past month. On May 30, reports said that at least two officials working at the Ministry of External Affairs had tested positive for Covid-19.

Earlier in May, a part of the Krishi Bhawan building in New Delhi was sealed after an employee in the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy tested positive for the coronavirus. On May 5, one floor of the Shastri Bhavan building, located in the same area, was sealed after a law ministry official was found to be infected.

The five-storeyed headquarters of the Central Reserve Police Force headquarters in Delhi was sealed for sanitisation on May 3 after a personal employee of a senior officer and a bus driver of the paramilitary tested positive for the coronavirus. In April, an employee of Rashtrapati Bhavan was found infected. The next day, an employee of the Ministry of Civil Aviation was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19. The patient’s colleagues who came in contact with him were asked to isolate themselves.

India’s tally of coronavirus cases rose to 2,66,598 on Tuesday morning, after 9,987 cases were reported in 24 hours. The toll increased to 7,466 after 266 deaths were reported in a day.

The Centre began the “Unlock 1” phase of India’s battle against Covid-19 on June 1, allowing malls, shops and restaurants to open in all areas except containment zones.

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