COVID19: Health Ministry changes stance on remote working

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The Health Ministry will relax an earlier decision on private companies sending 85% of their staff to work from home, despite declaring a week ago that doing so would defeat the purpose of the lockdown.

Government sources told the Financial Mirror on Wednesday that the Health Ministry has revisited the decision with the Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou expected to issue a decree increasing the ceiling to 25% or 25 people.

Under the second national lockdown against coronavirus, private firms that remained in operation from 10 January were only allowed to have 15% of their staff physically present with a ceiling of 20 people per establishment.

“The Minister will be announcing the changes with a decree later on in the day,” said the source Wednesday.

The Ministry’s change of heart is understood to be attributable to pressure from employers and audit firms who had earlier called on the government to rethink its decision, arguing they cannot function with less than 25% of their staff physically present.

“These measures is from an economic point of view are extremely sensitive, as companies are in mid-preparation of their financial statements for audit, requiring the physical presence of a sufficient number of employees not only of the audited firms but also the auditors,” said a statement issued last week by business groups.

Health authorities had remained firm on their decision arguing that changing the decision went against the philosophy of the lockdown.

The Ministry told businesses demanding change, that the new measures aimed at limiting social contacts, activities, and contacts between employees in the workplace.

Scientific findings indicate that a significant number of COVID-19 cases were detected at law firms, accountant, and audit offices.