Employees of Wipro Limited outside the company's headquarters in Bangalore. Photo: AFP

India has announced that it is easing the countrywide Covid-19 lockdown, but many companies are reluctant to bring workers back to the office.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has crossed 240,000 and the daily average number of new cases has increased to around 10,000.

The federal Health Ministry last Thursday issued the standard operating protocol for lockdown relaxations that will begin on June 8 as part of the government’s “Unlock 1” plan. It outlines preventive measures to be followed at offices, places of worship, restaurants, shopping malls and hotels.

But most companies believe the current system of employees working from home is working well and they don’t want to risk the health of their workers at this juncture.

E-commerce giant Amazon has allowed its staff to work from home for another four months, Economic Times reports. For those who need to attend office the company is ensuring their safety with temperature checks, physical distancing, deep cleaning and hand sanitizer stations.

Global banks such as Citibank and Bank of America are also adopting a cautious approach. Citibank has extended work from home till the end of June and will evaluate the situation at that time.

Professional services firms such as Ernst&Young and Deloitte are following the same approach, though Deloitte has reopened some of its offices and a small number of employees are attending work.

Over 90% of employees of Indian IT companies have been working from home since the nationwide lockdown began in March. Some of the biggest names, including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, HCL Tech, Wipro, Tech Mahindra, have 96-98% of their employees working from home.

CNBC-TV 18 had earlier reported that Indian IT companies will continue to have 90% of their employees working from home at least till August, after which they will review the situation. Even after August more than 50% of staff may continue to work from home.

The new Health Ministry guidelines state that entrances to offices must have hand-sanitizer stations and thermal screening, and that only asymptomatic staff and visitors should be allowed in. Staff residing in containment zones (those having coronavirus cases) should not be allowed to attend office until these zones are de-notified.

In case employees are found to be suffering from symptoms, they should be isolated in a room and the nearest medical facility should be informed. Public health authorities should then undertake “a risk assessment,” which will includes contact-tracing and assessing the need for disinfection.

In case of a large outbreak, the building or block will have to be closed for 48 hours for disinfection. The directive also advises work from home for people aged above 65 years, pregnant women and those with comorbidities.

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