Lusaka, Monday, March 30, 2020: COMESA Secretariat staff in Lusaka, Zambia, has begun working off-site for one month. This is part of the social distancing measures to prevent protect staff from infections and transmission of the Corona Virus.
“With effect from Monday 30 March 2020, for a period of four weeks, staff will work off-site, from home but will be accessible through emails, phone calls and WhatsApp. This arrangement is subject to review every two weeks or when it is necessary depending on ensuing circumstances or any directives issued bu the host government,” Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe said in a memo to staff.
To ensure the Secretariat continues to render services, staff have been trained on the use of information technology to enable them work and communicate seamlessly.
This includes hosting virtual meetings amongst themselves and with stakeholders in Member States. Only a small number of critical and essential staff will be left behind to man the Secretariat and respond to urgent matters during the period.
A travel ban on foreign missions, placed two weeks ago on staff is still in force.
In the last one week, heads of divisions, units and projects have developed Business Continuity Plans and workflows that will guide off-site delivery of service.
Sections of staff whose services may not be required have been advised to take leave in the short term as management monitors the effects of the pandemic in Zambia.
Zambia is among countries that have recorded COVID-19 cases and the numbers are steadily rising while the Government is gradually tightening restrictions.
The move to isolate staff and promote social distancing, is part of the measures that the World Health Organization has recommended as a strategy to contain the spread of the virus.
Countries that adopted this strategy early, such as Singapore, South Korea and China have successfully managed to contain the surge of the pandemic and many others are following suit.
Located in downtown Lusaka, COMESA Secretariat is particularly vulnerable as it is ringed with informal small-scale markets, public transport termini and vendors, thus compromising stringent pandemic control measures.