The Secretariat is the largest government office in TN with more than 6,500 staff attached to 37 departments. Despite strict orders, staff have been seen chatting in public without following social distancing norms and without face masks. Though para medical staff were appointed to check temperatures, they are not present at all the entrances. “In the first wave of COVID-19, 200 Secretariat staff had tested positive. After the government ordered 100% workforce, 56 staff tested positive in the past three days, taking the tally to 256,” S Peter Antonysamy, president, Tamil Nadu Secretariat Association, told DT Next.
In the initial days of the virus spread, the government, while announcing lockdown, had reduced the staff strength to 33% in all government offices except frontline departments. However, this was later increased to full strength. “Health experts across the world and even the Central government said that COVID-19 would peak in October and November and at this time it is not right for the government to make all the staff work. There is severe space crunch and social distancing cannot be followed,” said Antonysamy.
TANSA office-bearers also said that after opening up, public inflow has increased resulting in greater chance of spread. “Whenever a Minister comes here, he or she is accompanied by 15 people. The entry of public should be minimized,” said C Arumugam, secretary, TANSA.
When a higher official attached to Public (Buildings) department, in-charge of Secretariat, was asked about the work undertaken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the official, on request of anonymity, said that Secretariat campus is closed on all second Saturdays and complete sanitisation is done. “Automatic sanitisers are kept in all the buildings and staff are asked to keep their hands clean by using the sanitisers, the official said.