SECRETARY to the Cabinet Dr Simon Miti says Cabinet has directed and approved unprecedented measures, which include the suspension of face-to-face interactional meetings and for selected workers to work remotely, among others, in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking at a media briefing, Monday, Dr Miti announced that Cabinet had established a four-category work schedule, and that the measures were meant to be implemented for an initial 14-day period.

“The Controlling Officers submitted schedules demonstrating the preparedness of their institutions to operate with minimum staff in a bid to mitigate against possible infection and/or spread of the COVID-19 in government institutions with immediate effect, while being mindful that government needed to continue to provide basic social and economic services and as well as basic food basket. The schedules indicated that essential staff will be on duty throughout the pandemic period. The schedules also clearly indicated the periods that nonessential employees will be on duty and those that will be at home on a rotational basis,” Dr Miti said.

“As Head of the Public Service, and in consultation with His Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the work arrangements have been approved and segmented into four categories: Ministries, Provinces and Spending Agencies that will maintain their full staff complement. It has been approved that the staff be divided into teams that will work on a rotational basis. These Ministries include, among others, Commerce, Trade and Industry, Higher Education and Mines and Mineral Development.”

He said essential workers in all government departments would be required to work throughout the whole period, while non-essential workers were divided into two, which was support staff and non-support staff.

“Ministries, Provinces and Spending Agencies that have divided their staff into essential workers and non-essential workers. All essential workers will be required to work throughout the period. These consist of Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Directors and identified vital employees. The non-essential workers have been further divided into two: support staff and non-support staff. The support staff will work on a rotational basis, whilst non-support staff will work from home. For example, the Ministry of Home Affairs has indicated that all uniformed officers under Zambia Police Service, Zambia Correctional Services and Department of Immigration constitute essential staff and will be required to continue providing the critical services. On the other hand, it has been approved that the Ministry’s civilian staff will operate on a rotational basis,” he said.

“The Ministry of Defence also has classified the civilian staff as non-essential employees, who can operate on a rotational basis. The Ministry of Energy have identified the provision of petroleum and energy as critical and hence the proposal that employees in the Department of Petroleum and Energy continue to provide the critical service with the support of some officers from the Accounts and Procurement Units. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has also classified staff into essential and non-essential groups with the aim of ensuring uninterrupted flow of information to the public during the pandemic.”

Dr Miti said government staff, who were engaged in the inspection of public places and also involved in the cleaning of markets and public toilets, would be required to report for duty on a daily basis.

“Category 3: Ministries, Provinces and Spending Agencies that have identified that during this period, their core duties will be significantly minimized and can, therefore, afford to let part of their staff stay at home, possibly taking leave. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for instance, has indicated that 50 per cent of the staff will be allowed to stay at home for an initial period of 14 days on the understanding that they will be on call at all times. The Ministry has indicated that its primary function is to deal with the international community, most of whose governments or organizations have declared lockdowns. Consequently, both the Zambian Missions abroad and the Foreign Missions accredited to the Republic of Zambia have drastically scaled down with their operations,” Dr Miti said.

“Category 4: Provincial administrations have identified as critical during the pandemic the inspection of public places to ensure compliance to public health measures that have been put in place by government. Staff who are engaged in the inspection of the public places and also involved in the cleaning of markets and public toilets will be required to report for duty on a daily basis. Administrative staff will be working on a rational basis. This is in recognition that the Provincial, District and Local Authorities are front-line administrations, who have the responsibility to take all reasonable measures to facilitate and implement measures as prescribed by the National Disaster Management Council of Ministers.”

He also said that activities which required face-to-face interaction, like meetings, conferences, seminars and field visits, among others, would temporally be suspended.

“Activities that could be considered for suspension during the pandemic: Ministries, Provinces and Spending Agencies identified critical activities within their institutions that should continue to be implemented during the pandemic. Such activities include the provision of health and medical care, supply and distribution of water, provision of sewerage and fire services, provision of petroleum and energy, provision of security, law and order,” Dr Miti said.

“Activities that require face-to-face interactions will be considered for suspension during the pandemic. These include meetings, conferences, seminars/workshops, field visits, auction sales, State functions, traditional ceremonies and other non-essential events. The Ministry of National Development Planning has indicated that employees will be facilitated with Internet connectivity to ensure continuity of work when employees are working from home. Other Controlling Officers have indicated that electronic platforms will be enhanced during this period to ensure continuation of operations.”

Dr Miti reiterated that there was need to maintain only vital employees to provide essential social and economic services, as well as the basic food basket.

“From the submissions made by MPSAs, it is evident that institutions have thoroughly analysed the working arrangements that would enable the institutions to operate smoothly during the period of the COVID–19 pandemic with the barest minimum staff. This is demonstrated through the identification of essential employees, those that can work from home, those that can work on rotational basis as well as assignments that can be put on hold,” said Dr Miti.

“Arising from the above and the gravity of the current situation, there is need to maintain only vital employees in the Public Service needed to provide essential basic social and economic services, as well as the basic food basket, as recommended by the Ministries, Provinces and Spending Agencies, and as approved by His Excellency, Edgar Chagwa Lungu.”