With 15 PCS and two IAS officers testing positive in Punjab in the last five days, the Punjab government on Friday decided to identify ‘key and link-up personnel’ in all state departments and to bar physical contact between them to ensure government work does not suffer.
The Punjab Health Department also issued fresh guidelines for state government departments to guard against spread of Covid-19.
Plan to ensure work does not suffer
All administrative secretaries and Deputy Commissioners in the state have been told to identify key personnel in offices and also their link-up personnel. The government order stated that each the link-up officer would carry out functioning of these key personnel in case they get impacted by Covid-19.
The directions, forwarded by Nodal Officer, Covid Control Room, Rahul Tiwari to all state government secretaries and DCs, also state that “all administrative secretaries and DCs should inform all employees working under them that there should not be any physical contact between the key personnel and link-up personnel. Any communication between them should be done through phone or virtual media.”
The order directs these officials to identify rooms, with attached toilet, canteen facility for the key personnel or link-up personnel so that they could self-quarantine themselves if need be and keep on performing official work. It further adds that in case these top personnel are badly impacted, then a Plan B should be made ready.
The instructions also ask department heads to ensure seating arrangement with a minimum distance of one metre, adding that clustering of staff should not happen at any given point of time. Also, office work should be done with e-files and exchange of paper files should be discouraged.
Fresh health dept instructions
The Health Department also issued fresh a separate set of instructions to be followed strictly in all government offices.
As per the fresh set of instructions, wearing of masks by all employees and visitors coming in government offices is mandatory. Apart from screening of persons, government employees have been told to ensure social distancing. They also must restrict the number of persons visiting their offices at any given time.
The Health Department has said that meetings should be conducted online as far as possible and gathering of employees should be restricted, while sanitisation arrangements should be made at the entrances of all offices.
The most important instruction is to keep the rooms well-ventilated as it is being apprehended that it was because of the centrally air conditioned hall in which 40 PCS officers met that the infection spread from one person to another. So, officials have been advised to use exhaust fans in the rooms or keep windows open for cross ventilation so that the same air does not circulate in the room.
Public dealing reduced
With concerns mounting over government officials contracting the virus, the government stopped public dealing and banned the entry of visitors to Civil Secretariat in Sector 2 and Mini Secretariat in Sector 9 in Chandigarh.
In his orders, Principal Secretary (General Administration) Alok Shekhar said, “In view of growing spread of Covid-19, it has been decided by the General Administration department of Government of Punjab to restrict entry of all visitors (general Public), in Punjab Civil Secretariat I and II with immediate effect. In case of any difficulty, please contact Additional Secretary General Administration. All letters should be delivered to the staff posted at the reception counters. All are requested to cooperate with the government its effort to curb Covid-19.”
Public dealing has also come down to bare minimum in the impacted districts where several officials are now in quarantine.
In Ludhiana, so far 5 PCS officers — SDM Khanna, SDM Payal, ADC Jagraon, ADC(General) and MC Joint Commissioner – have tested positive. Majority of officers associated with these officials are already in quarantine. Ludhiana DC Varinder Sharma said,” I have reduced the number of chairs in my office now.”
Hoshiarpur had suspended public dealing work in tehsil offices after two PCS officials — SDM Hoshiarpur and MC Commissioner Hoshiarpur – tested positive on Tuesday. Majority of the staff, including DC Hoshiarpur, have been quarantined. A decision on resuming normal work at offices will be taken on Sunday.
B Srinivasan, DC Bathinda, told The Indian Express, “We have been conducting meetings online and only in very urgent cases, people are called in-person. For the public, we have deputed our officers/employees in an office common place to get applications. We have not been allowing people to enter any closed spaces in offices. Other SOPs over sanitisation, masks are being followed already.”
In Ropar, DC Ropar Sonali Giri, who had tested positive on Thursday, worked from home on Friday. Ropar will open public dealing from Monday.
Barnala DC T P S Phoolka said,” We are cautious after so many officers testing positive. But already standard operating procedures are being followed.” Office of SDM Dirba, who is Covid-19 positive, has been sealed, and employees are being tested, said Sangrur DC Ramvir, adding that decision is pending on resuming public dealing from Monday.
More officials in Covid grip
On Friday, one PCS officer – Joint Commissioner, Ludhiana MC, Kulprit Singh, tested positive, along with IAS officer Vipul Ujjwal, who is Director, Rural Development, posted at Chandigarh. He is husband of Ropar DC Sonali Giri, who had tested positive on Thursday. As Ujjawal and several other officers had attended a meeting with Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, the latter too has undergone testing. Meanwhile, Ropar DC’s both children – 8-year-old daughter and one-year-old son, her mother-in-law (65) , father-in-law (66) have also tested positive.
Ludhiana MC Joint Commissioner, Kulprit Singh, was not part of the meeting of PCS officers’ association held at Chandigarh on July 3. He, however, was regularly attending meetings at DC office, Ludhiana and was in contact with ADC (General) Amarjeet Singh Bains, who was the first PCS officer in the state to test positive. Kulprit is stated to be asymptomatic as of now.
Meanwhile, DCs of top 7 most affected districts of Punjab — Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Sangrur, Patiala, Mohali and Pathankot — attended a video conference with Chief Secretary Vinni Mahajan on Friday evening. At the conference, it was suggested that online grievances portal should be given priority instead of manual submission of grievance and mandatory FIR should be filed over violation of social distance norms during any dharna, protest or gathering.
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