UN chief extends telecommuting arrangements to July 31

Photo taken on March 10, 2020 shows the visitors' entrance to the United Nations headquarters in New York. (Xinhua/Wang Jiangang)

“We are actively preparing the buildings (at UN headquarters) for a phased return,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

(Xinhua) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Friday that he has decided to extend the current telecommuting arrangements at UN headquarters in New York through July 31.

“After consulting with senior management and our medical services regarding the COVID-19 situation, I have decided to extend the current telecommuting arrangements at the headquarters complex through July 31, 2020. We will continue to review these arrangements and will provide advance notice should there be any easing or further extension of these measures,” the UN chief said in a letter to all UN staff working at the New York headquarters.

“In the meantime, we are actively preparing the buildings for a phased return. Our plan consists of four phases. During the current phase (Phase Zero), our aim is to keep our footprint at the headquarters complex below 200 people – staff and delegates,” he said.

The Department of Operational Support is doing “a deep cleaning” of the premises, placing signage around the buildings to guide staff on physical distancing, and making other arrangements to lower the exposure risk for returning personnel and delegates, “which we envisage would start in Phase Two when we will gradually move from 10 to 40 percent occupancy,” he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) attends a virtual press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, April 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Xie E)

As for Phase One, the UN chief said that the UN has not set a date for when it will move into Phase One, but he would like to provide some information about what UN staff can expect.

“During Phase One, only those functions that need to be performed on site will be conducted on site. The vast majority of staff will continue to telecommute, and there must be a compelling reason for personnel to be present in the buildings. In this phase, no more than 400 people should be at the headquarters complex on any given day, and physical distancing will be strictly enforced for common spaces,” he said.

The secretary-general on May 11 extended his order for all staff at UN headquarters in New York to work from home through June 30 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

He first ordered all staff at UN headquarters in New York, unless their physical presence in office was needed to carry out essential UN business, to work from home between March 16 and April 12. He then successively extended the arrangements till April 30 and May 31.

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