The Office of the Deputy Governor announced on Thursday May 21st, 2020, that in light of Cabinet’s decision to ease public health restrictions on May 22nd, the initial phase of reopening the Montserrat Public Service will commence Monday, May 25th, 2020.
“The Montserrat Public Service will begin a phased reopening next Monday to provide an adequate suite of public services, maintain healthy business operations and provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. Hence, Government Offices will be physically manned to serve customers, while at the same time operating in a manner consistent with prevailing public health regulations and guidelines,” the release from ODG read.
“Additionally, to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all public officers who may be required to report for duty, staggering work hours and shifts will be implemented and many others will continue to work remotely. Staff will be advised by their Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments on flexible work schedules which will be mutually agreed upon. However, workers who are not immediately required in their usual roles may be temporarily assigned to another department.
“Public Officers who were previously granted discretionary leave due to early closure of schools and a lack of childcare arrangements will be eligible to extend their discretionary leave until Friday, May 29th, 2020. Subsequently, those who are still unable to find alternative caregiving arrangements will be required to begin to utilize their accrued vacation leave. All Government employees who wish to use the extended discretionary leave must contact their Heads of Department as of the close of business on Monday, May 25th, 2020.
“As part of this phase of the reopening process, the needs of public officers with serious underlying medical conditions who are considered high risk will be carefully considered to ensure that their re-entry into the physical workplace will not expose them to unnecessary risks.
“In the initial phase of reopening, all public officers will be expected to continue to adhere to the workplace guidelines issued in previous ODG Circulars related to the COVID- 19 pandemic. These include washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use a hand sanitizer if soap is not available, avoid touching the mouth, eyes and nose, avoid close contact with people who are sick (coughing, sneezing), sneeze and cough into your elbow, disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops and desks as well as stay home when unwell and displaying flu-like symptoms.”
The Officer of the Deputy Governor stated that although the Government of Montserrat has not made it mandatory for persons to wear face masks in public, it acknowledged that some individuals may, out of an abundance of caution, opt to wear a face covering in public places. Therefore, any public officer whose personal preference is to wear a face covering will be actively encouraged to do so in the workplace.
Another important aspect of the Montserrat Public Service reopening plan is that public officers must not use other colleagues’ phones, desks, offices, work tools and equipment and should avoid “hanging out” at other officers’ work stations. All workers will be seated at least six feet apart and appropriate arrangements will be made to provide protective barriers between front line staff and customers.
The general public will be asked to first access public services via telephone or other online methods if possible. However, if a member of the public has to be physically present for services, all social distancing guidelines are to be observed. An appointment system will be instituted by Departments where appropriate and face to face meetings with customers can occur only when absolutely necessary.
The central call line currently being used at the DMCA will continue to be manned to ensure that the Public Service is adequately responding to the needs of citizens and to provide the best possible advice, and guidance to individuals where necessary. Through this mechanism, by contacting this Public Service call service at 664 491 4800, members of the public will be able to provide feedback and raise any concerns about Government of Montserrat’s service quality and availability.
The Office of the Deputy Governor expresses gratitude and thanks to all public servants who continue to work their normal schedules in support of the wider effort to manage the Government of Montserrat’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also asserts that there are many unsung heroes worked tirelessly on the front lines and behind the scenes in support of this effort and acknowledges their selfless contributions – Health and Social Services Personnel, Police and Prison Officers, Royal Montserrat Defence Force, Administrators and Administrative Staff in the various Ministries and Departments.