COVID19: Government stands firm on remote working

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Health authorities will not revise their decision for private companies to send 85% of their staff to work from home, as it would defeat the purpose of the lockdown.

Under the second national lockdown to stem the surge of coronavirus cases, private firms that remain in operation are allowed just 15% of their staff to be physically present with a ceiling of 20 people per establishment.

Employers and audit firms had called on the government to rethink its decision, arguing that they cannot function with less than 25% of their staff physically present.

“The period of implementation of these measures is from an economic point of view extremely sensitive, as companies are in mid preparation of their financial statements for audit, which requires the physical presence of a sufficient number of employees not only of the audited firms but also of the auditors,” said a statement by business groups.

Replying to the calls of the Federation of Employers and Industrialists, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Cyprus Public Accountants, the Health Ministry said that altering the decision in any way would be defeating its purpose.

“The new measures aim at limiting social contacts, activities and contacts between employees at workplaces,” said Margarita Kyriacou, the Health Ministry’s spokesperson.

She explained that the Ministry’s decision was based on scientific findings that a significant number of cases were detected at lawyer, accountant, and audit offices.

“It was found that the transmission of the virus between employees resulted from the social interaction employees had during coffee or lunch breaks. For these reasons, the ceiling of 20 people was introduced.”

Kyriacou said: “The philosophy behind the measures is to limit our movements and contacts, to the absolutely necessary for a period of 3 weeks, so as to bring down epidemiological indicators for both cases and hospitalizations. Only in this way will we be able to gradually de-escalate measures.”

She urged employees who continue working from their offices to take advantage of the free testing schemes and get tested.

“It is vital that along with the lockdown measures we keep the number of tests high as early detection of cases stops infections as cases are isolated.”

Kyriacou added that employees can get tested at one of the mobile testing units on their way to work or on their way home without the need to ‘spend’ an SMS on getting tested.

“That is why we have moved testing stations to points where people can gather despite the measures, which are supermarkets and industrial zones in a bid to encourage people to get tested.”