Covid surge: Businesses bring back Covid restrictions as cases rise

Maharashtra, India’s largest domestic economy and home to the capital markets and some of the country’s leading conglomerates, has recommended the use of masks indoors in the face of an unexpected Covid surge, prompting companies including , Deloitte and Mercedes Benz to take measures to ensure the safety of the to strengthen employees.

Forbes Marshall,

, , , , and are also among the companies trying to enforce Covid protocols that reflect broader heightened risks. Several companies are also planning to increase mass testing as case numbers rise. Many companies also encourage their employees to get booster shots.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope was quoted as saying by local media on Saturday that masks are not yet mandatory, although he has appealed to people to use masks. His clarifications came after a written directive from Mantralaya official Pradeep Vyas to the district authorities to enforce stricter protocols.

“The mask in closed public places such as trains, buses, cinemas, lecture halls, offices, hospitals, colleges and schools is a must,” Vyas was quoted as saying by local media.

Certainly, cases in six leading industrial districts, including the city of Mumbai and the suburbs of Pune, Palghar, Raigad and Thane, have almost doubled in a week.

While most companies ET spoke to have yet to see a significant escalation in the number of positive cases, they are closely monitoring government guidelines.

Wait and watch

“Until now we have not seen any significant escalation in the number of cases,” said Ruzbeh Irani, HR president of the group, Mahindra and Mahindra, which has several departments working from office space. “We certainly continued many of the security protocols during our return to office.”

Consumer company Marico, which is currently operating in hybrid mode, may consider further reducing the number of people working in the office as positive cases increase in the city, CHRO Amit Prakash said.

“We’re continuing to work on hybrid mode — and will look at further reductions next week if cases continue to rise,” he said. At Thermax, employees with symptoms of Covid infections are being asked to work from home, said Jasmeet Bhatia, the company’s chief human resources officer. Companies like Motilal Oswal Financial Services, Marico and Deloitte encourage their employees to take booster shots at the earliest. Jindal Stainless hosted a vaccination booster camp for its employees and their family members.

Booster Shots

“We have already sent out a message to employees to get their booster shots, which the company is paying for… However, this time we are not conducting a camp in the office like we did with the previous dose as the vaccine is currently available is widely available,” said SV Nathan, Partner and Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India.

Motilal Oswal Financial Services, which has most staff working from offices, is likely to send advice to staff next week about the importance of getting their booster shots.

“We should be doing this by Monday and sending subtle messages to staff to get their booster doses,” said Sudhir Dhar, Executive Director – HR, Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

Meanwhile, manufacturers like Jindal Stainless, where all employees come to work in both factories and company offices, are making sure employees are following proper mask and distancing protocols.

“We will now introduce a mask requirement. In areas like the dining room where there might be a lot of people, we have made sure that people come staggered,” said Suresh Bose, CHRO, Jindal Stainless. “If we see cases continue to increase, we will also start mass testing or rapid antigen testing.”

Tiered Participation

Staggered layers are being considered in many works. “We continue to work shifts on the shop floor and have rearranged our offices to allow for better social distancing with everyone present,” said Naushad Forbes, co-founder of Forbes Marshall.

Tests are also carried out more frequently in production centers with a high concentration of personnel.

“We test everyone between twice a week and every two weeks depending on whether we find even one positive case. We had zero positives this week and had one of a few thousand tests last week,” Forbes said.

Tech Mahindra will continue to follow the security protocols already in place. It has zones in each of its offices to ensure movement is restricted to specific floors. It has transformed the workplace into a “touch-free” environment, using digital tools including a facial recognition system for attendance and the “Book My Seat” application, which automatically ensures social distancing when assigning seats.

“We are closely monitoring all the guidelines of the respective state governments and have taken strict measures to contain the spread of the virus,” said Harshvendra Soin, Global Chief People Officer & Head – Marketing, Tech Mahindra.

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