Close govt. offices till March 31, officers body urges PM

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New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) The Confederation of Central Government Gazetted Officers Organisation on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shut government offices till March 31 as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in India.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Bhaskar Bhattacharya, Secretary General of the Organisation, said: “Centre and the state governments have issued several advisories, initiated many preventive measures and imposed restrictions, closures invoking certain acts to contain the spread of Covid-19 in India.”
In his letter, he mentioned that as a guiding measure, the Department of Personnel and Training has also issued a detailed advisory for the Central government offices.
“In many Central government departments, administrations are definitely trying their best to extend all possible support to the employees as per government guidelines, but several Central government offices across the country are still lagging in this regard. However, such efforts will only partially address the huge risk posing to the employees,” he said.
Bhattacharya said that being workers in public office, it is not possible for the Central government employees to maintain social distancing while in office.
“Most importantly, more than 98 per cent of the employees have to commute to office using public transport at a time when the government advisories are suggesting to avoid public transport as far as possible,” he said, adding that despite certain measures being taken in office, employees remain vulnerable to infection due to commuting in public transport to attend office and other unavoidable interactions in office.
He also noted that the state government and the centre has asked for the closure of educational institutions, theatres, malls and several other places till a certain period to minimize commuting in public transport and ensure social distancing.
“As we are probably entering into the most crucial phase when there is a chance of exponential increase of infected persons, it is requested to your good self to kindly consider the option of closing Central government offices (excluding those providing essential services and/or engaged in the country’s present fight against the disease outbreak by any means) across the country till March 31 or any other date, as deem fit,” Bhattacharya said.
“We believe that it will be an appropriate step in the greater public interest including ensuring safety and well being of the central government employees,” he added.
On Wednesday, India reported 25 fresh cases of Covid-19 taking the total number of persons affected to 151. Three people have died — one each in Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka due to Covid-19.