Disciplinary proceedings should be taken against public employees who are found to be in breach of the national self-quarantine instructions for people returning to Malta from countries which have been seriously hit by the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Office of the Prime Minister has advised.
In an email to permanent secretaries, directors, director generals and heads of department on 26th February, Joyce Cassar, Permanent Secretary for People and Standards within the OPM, explained the self-quarantine procedures for public employees returning from impacted countries – namely China (including Hong Kong), Singapore, South Korea, Iran and Northern Italy. Japan, which was named by the Health Minister as a high-impact country, was not included on this list.
Cassar confirmed that public employees who have visited these countries before 28th February must self-quarantine for two weeks and are entitled to quarantine leave. Those who visit those countries after that date must also self-quarantine themselves for two weeks but aren’t entitled to quarantine leave.
Presumably, this means that public employees who have booked trips to those countries after 28th February must either cancel their travel plans, forego their quarantine leave or find themselves liable to disciplinary proceedings.
This is the email in full:
“Further to instructions issued by the Ministry for Health, employees in government departments and entities who have visited any of the countries affected by the coronavirus are required to remain at home for 14 days from the date that they left the country the visited. To date, the affected countries are China (including Hong Kong), Singapore, South Korea, Iran and Northern Italy.”
“Whenever possible, management shall ensure that the necessary arrangements are made so that employees on quarantine leave continue working from home. Employees who travelled to these countries are requested to prevent an electronic proof of travel to the respective Human Resources Director ofor verification.”
“Government entities are to inform the HR Director in the respective ministry with the details of the employee on quarantine leave.”
“Management shall have the prerogative to conduct house visits to verify that the employees who are on quarantine leave stay at home. Employees who are not found at home shall be liable to disciplinary proceedings.”
“These instructions are also applicable to public sector entities and shall be strictly adhered to. Heads are requested to ensure that the contents of they circular are brought to the attention of all public officers under their remit.”
“Anyone travelling to these countries after 28th February shall also stay at home from the date of return from such countries; however, they will not be eligible for quarantine leave.”
Earlier today, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) warned that the government’s self-quarantine directives go against the Public Service Management Code because quarantine leave is being automatically deducted from employees’ vacation leave.
The government then issued a statement to deny breaching these regulations and to insist quarantine leave of public employees will not be deducted from their vacation leave.
Social partners are set to convene next week to discuss the self-quarantine directives, including whether it should be extended to the private sector.