Five employees of the Union health ministry, including a director, an under-secretary have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last seven days, prompting the authorities to carry out a "major and comprehensive disinfection and sanitisation" of office premises from June 6-7.
Besides two officers and a doctor, two employees who have contracted the disease are from the Centre for Health Informatics under the Health Ministry. They frequented the Nirman Bhawan building, sources said.
"Those who had come in contact with these COVID-19 infected officials have been advised to quarantine themselves. Further contract tracing is on," a source said, adding a few more staff had tested positive earlier.
In view of these developments, the Union Health Ministry on June 4 issued a fresh office memorandum stating, "It has been decided to initiate major and comprehensive disinfection and sanitization of office premises (Nirman Bhawan) on June 6-7."
"Accordingly, the entire premises of the Ministry of Health and DGHS, Nirman Bhawan will remain closed from June 6 to 7 except for emergency COVID-19 team," the memorandum read.
As part of the "deep sanitisation" exercise, rooms, washrooms, door knobs, switches, handles, tables, workstations, chairs, armrest of chairs, sofas, almirahs, and office equipment such as computers and printers, will be sanitised.
The ministry has issued another office memorandum on June 3 advising all staff to follow precautionary measures strictly in order to contain the spread of the disease.
"The number of COVID-19 positive cases are going up steadily. Many officers of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have tested COVID-19 positive.It has been noted that at times social distancing is not being maintained in office premises," the June 3 memo read.
Listing a series of precautionary measures to be followed "strictly", the ministry said wearing of masks is mandatory for all employees, only asymptomatic persons will be allowed to attend office and the staff should maintain social distancing mandatorily.
Meetings and conferences should not be done physically and may be organized through video conferencing only, and work from home should be facilitated in case of an emergent situation, it said.
"All JS’s/EAs concerned shall ensure that their officers/staff attend office at staggered working hours as per DoPT office memorandum," the memo stated.
The ministry advised discouraging entry of visitors in the office complex and sanction leave whenever any request for self-quarantine is received. It also advised against using each other phones, desk and other work tool, avoiding loitering and crowding in the corridors and maintaining respiratory etiquettes.
"All employees should try and use stairs as far as possible except those who may have problems using the staircase. The movement of physical receipt/ file/ should be discouraged so as to avoid the infection through frequent touching of papers," the memorandum read.