Coronavirus infections hit labour migration officesFrom providing compensation to issuing labour permits, works have taken a hit as labour-related offices are dealing with Covid-19 among their staff.
Foreign employment-related services from government offices have been affected as some government officials have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks.
The Foreign Employment Board, which provides compensation and damages for deaths and injuries of migrant workers, has been closed since Monday after two staff were infected with the virus.
Following the confirmation of the infection among the staff, the board’s secretariat based in Babarmahal, Kathmandu, has suspended all services related to compensation until further notice.
According to Din Bandhu Subedi, information officer at the board, the office is likely to be closed at least until Friday.
"While the infection has been confirmed among two staff, we still need to test other staff," Subedi told the Post. "We have written to the Health Ministry for the tests. Only after the tests are conducted and the results are out, we can say when the board will resume its regular services."
Every day, dozens of people who have either lost their loved ones working abroad, suffered life-changing injuries or contracted diseases visit the board's secretariat office at Babarmahal for financial assistance.
Although the board accepts online applications filed through the concerned local governments to claim compensation, the concerned family members favour visiting the board’s office in Kathmandu.
"The family members of the deceased or injured migrant workers find it safer and convenient to visit the Kathmandu office to collect compensation as well as to claim insurance," Subedi told the Post.
Despite the coronavirus infection among its staff members, the board has not stopped ferrying the bodies of migrant workers to their hometowns, officials at the board said.
Another government office struggling to provide services to beneficiaries because of the Covid-19 pandemic is the Foreign Employment Office at Tahachal.
The office, under the Department of Foreign Employment, issues labour permits to migrant workers.
The office suspended its services starting from September 30 after one of its employees was infected with the coronavirus.
So far, five staff members at the office have tested positive for the virus.
The office resumed its operations from Monday, though partially.
"We have asked visitors to maintain physical distancing and wash or sanitise their hands. We do not have enough resources to enforce the health and safety protocol, but we have cautiously resumed our services," said Matrika Sapkota, a section officer with the Tahachal office.
"We have prioritised issuing work permits to only those clients whose visas are expiring or those who need to travel immediately."
The office has also been issuing limited numbers of tokens for service seekers. It has also urged the migrant workers who
do not need to travel immediately to not to apply for labour permits for at least another two weeks.
After the office resumed issuing labour permits following the lifting of the lockdown, some 500-600 were being distributed to migrant workers visiting the office for labour daily from Kathmandu office.
After the detection of Covid-19 cases, the office has brought down daily token numbers to 300.
According to Sapkota, the pressure on Tahachal office is also because the Labour Office in Province 1 has not resumed its services and other provincial offices have also limited their services.
"With the human resources available right now, we should be giving only 100 labour permits. There are not only labour permits but other verifications like NOC [no objection certificate] as well," said Sapkota. "A large number of people have been visiting the office. The daily work pressure has increased as the office was closed for a few days due to the infection among the staff."