(Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP)

Mumbai: When the government put out an advisory against public gatherings, it failed to take into account one important public spot -- the post office.

Post offices across the city continue to be crowded, foreigners included, exposing hundreds of staffers to possible infection. Despite repeated requests and letters, the government has failed to provide them with basic tools of protection such as hand sanitisers and masks.

Articles under the Mumbai Customs jurisdiction are forwarded to the Foreign Post Office in Fort, for customs examination. As many of these products are delivered from China and other affected countries, it is creating panic among the staffers, who have now written to the state government to ban the supply of foreign items.

BD Dadas, circle secretary of the Bharatiya Postal Employees Federation, said the government has issued a circular directing all private firms to have less than 50 per cent employees in attendance or observe work-from-home policy.

As a result, people who are at home are now setting out for personal work such as going to the post office, putting postal workers at an increased risk of possible coronavirus infection, Dadas said.

“Footfall at post offices has increased by 20 per cent, causing us to become increasingly apprehensive. We have not even been provided masks and sanitisers. Postmen, who go to people’s houses for to deliver packages too have no protective gear,” he said.

In a letter to the chief postmaster general, the employees have demanded a ban on incoming articles from coronavirus-affected countries. Articles under the Mumbai Customs jurisdiction are forwarded to the Mumbai Foreign Post Office for customs clearance, where they are opened.

In a letter dated March 13, 2020, Prashant Toraskar, circle secretary, Bharatiya Postal Employees Association, Postman and MTS, Maharashtra wrote, “Since the matter is related to health conscious of employees, it is requested that please take up the matter to ban incoming mails from China and other affected countries.”

Many people are even refuse to accept articles sent from affected countries through couriers. “According to a new rule, people have to sign off on receipt of parcels. But afraid they will get infected with coronavirus, they are refusing to do so,” said Dadas.

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