On 17 May 2020, the Minister of Health issued the Prevention of Resurgence and Further Spread of Epidemic Disease (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (GN 92 of 2020) (COVID-19 Regulations). The COVID-19 Regulations, which came into force on 17 May 2020, declare that the sanitary measures mentioned therein are intended to prevent the resurgence and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the failure to observe these amount to a criminal offence which carries a maximum fine of MUR 50,000 [USD 1,352] and a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years.
Mauritius has been under a national lockdown since 20 March 2020 and this has been further extended until 1 June 2020 with the caveat that as from 15 May 2020 certain essential services will resume progressively. The ease of lockdown as aforesaid has also been extended to the private sector. It is in this context that the COVID-19 Regulations come into play.
The COVID-19 Regulations lay down the general rule which applies whenever a person is not at his or her place of residence. However, there are rules of good hygiene practices which apply to every situation i.e. whether at the residence, workplace or any other place.
Insofar as the work environment is concerned, the COVID-19 Regulations cast an obligation on every employer to ensure that the following social and physical distancing measures are in place when employees attend the workplace and good hygienic practices are observed at the workplace:
Social and Physical Distancing Rules
- a person must maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from any other person other than when s/he is at his residential place or when s/he is in the company of a child under 12;
- no person is authorised to sit on a seat which is not fixed to the floor and which is less than 1 metre away from another person in a public place unless s/he has a reasonable excuse;
- no person is authorised to sit on a fixed seat in a public place which is demarcated as not occupied, unless s/he has a reasonable excuse; and
- stand in a queue less than 1 metre away from any other person in the queue in any other place, unless s/he has a reasonable excuse.
Good Hygienic Practices
An employer must adopt the following measures:
- provide all employees with hygiene products (e.g soap, sanitisers and tissue paper);
- provide all employees with rubbish bins for the disposal of waste;
- ensure that waste is regularly disposed of; and
- ensure that the place of work, including used surfaces such as benchtops, desks and doorknobs, are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
From an employee perspective, every employee is required to wear a protective mask over his nose and mouth at the workplace. The admitted exception to this rule is when the employee performs an activity at work for which a mask is not to be worn or the mask must be removed in order that the employee may wear another equipment which is required to perform the activity.
With the passing of the COVID-19 Regulations, the Government of Mauritius further enhances its commitment to cope with the concerns of a business community plagued by the consequences of the national lockdown imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic by prescribing the mandatory rules to be observed both by an employer and an employee and the general public to secure a safe environment, both at work and otherwise. These in fact promote the establishment of the anticipated 'new normal' as we gradually step out of the absolute prohibitions imposed by the pandemic.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.