Offices open but movement outside dzongkhags restricted

… saloons, barbershops, garment shops and footwear shops to remain closed

Yangchen C Rinzin

All offices will resume full-time today and in addition to public transport, private cars will be allowed to move within the dzongkhags as the final phase of unlocking the lockdown begins.

However, this will not apply to high risks areas like Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, Samtse, and Gelephu.

All cars must carry only half the capacity unless one is accompanying a child or an elderly of the same family.

Offices have to operate within the Covid-19 norms like physical distancing, compulsory facemasks and handwashing at all times. The offices should also keep options for “work from home” or introduce a shift system.

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has asked all the government agencies to reconfigure physical office environment/setup and working procedures to align the health protocols under “new normal”.

All government offices should have hand washing facilities and resources like hand sanitisers for staff and clients, including proper safe distance marking within the office.

According to the official reminder from the RCSC to head of agencies, the “new normal” will entail new working arrangements working as normal, working from home (WFH) and work in split teams.

If the office space allows for sufficient, safe physical distance while delivering services, the staff could work from the office as usual. If it does not have enough space, the staff would be split into teams and work alternatively every week.

However, WFH like pre-lockdown will apply to only those staff who have breastfeeding babies, children below the age of one and those who have serious health issues. The commission has also come up with guidelines for WFH, which is mandatory for all agencies to follow.

“If required, an agency can customise it to their specific requirements,” the letter stated.

Given the uncertainty of Covid-19 virus and lockdown, RCSC has also asked all the public agencies to draw staff engagement plans to be prepared for any future lockdowns and subsequent re-openings.

For instance, a staff engagement plan developed by RCSC secretariat for post lockdown states that there should be a fortnight timetable for WFH, weekly virtual meetings with divisions or services, and standards of hygiene at RCSC like providing a welcome back kit. The kit will consist of facemasks and sanitisers.

All the agencies would also be required to identify staff for deployment during lockdown to continue providing critical services. To ensure a safe office, RCSC instructed that offices could disinfect frequently, use telecommute, video and teleconferences whenever possible.

The RCSC also suggested cancelling non-critical work or events and personal gatherings, 20 minutes weekly cleaning sessions, and staff must take leave if they fall sick or show any flu-like symptoms.

Similarly, private, corporate, state-owned enterprises and non-governmental organisations are also working on the WFH while few offices have implemented shift system pre-lockdown.

Meanwhile, the inter-dzongkhag movement will be allowed only from September 11. The vehicles must seek prior permission from the police.

The vehicles would be allowed to carry only 50 percent of passenger capacity unless minors and elderlies from the same family.

Registration portals are also being created, which will include online registration, help-line calls and physical registration at identified offices or nearest check posts.

However, a press release from Prime Minister’s Office stated that with the increasing number of people seeking to travel to other dzongkhags, which also increases the risk of infection, the government has decided to discontinue the movement of stranded people in all the dzongkhags, except Phuentsholing thromde.

An official from the PMO said that it was decided to continue facilitating the movement of the stranded people from Phuentsholing because it had protocols in place such as a mandatory three-day quarantine and testing upon release.

The Southern Covid-19 taskforce will continue to facilitate their travels out of Phuentsholing.

The government has also decided to allow shops like electronics, printing and furniture units to operate from today. The barbershops and saloons, non-essential shops like garment and footwear will continue to remain closed given the associated risks.

Public gatherings or outdoor activities like picnic, hiking or visiting spiritual sites will still be restricted.

While institutions like RBA, RBP, RBG, IMTRAT, and Project DANTAK will continue to operate in self-containment for another four days.

“Medically, those who get the infection start becoming symptomatic by the second or the third day. It peaks around the end of the first week and so far we’ve not recorded new cases. However, it doesn’t mean we’ve come out of the risks,” the PMO’s press release stated.

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