CTBTO staff start gradual return to Vienna HQ

Bernd Wernsperger, Andrea Mayer, and Claus Johannsen from the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System division.
Paulina Bittner, a Lead Analyst in the CTBTO’s International Data Centre (IDC).
Dejan Mincic from the IDC takes part in a virtual meeting.
Vadim Smirnov, Director of the On-Site Inspection (OSI) division, confers with OSI Coordinator Julian Tangaere.
Health and Safety Officer Andy Collinson distributes a washable face mask to colleague Aled Rowlands.
Notices remind staff to maintain social distance.
Strict hygiene at the VIC cafeteria.
With most work still going on remotely, the VIC is still strangely empty.

Just under 20% of staff have gone back to work at the CTBTO’s Vienna headquarters in the first phase of a gradual return, following nine weeks of mainly remote operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vienna International Centre (VIC), which houses the United Nations family in the Austrian capital, has been closed since 16 March to all but a skeleton staff. The vast majority of CTBTO personnel have continued working from home, keeping all core functions on track to ensure no nuclear test can go undetected. 

Announcing the reopening of the VIC from 15 May, the heads of the four main Vienna-based UN organizations, including CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, thanked staff for their commitment and flexibility and stressed that the health and well-being of everyone at the VIC remains the top priority.

“We remain united by the determination to work together to support each other, help Member States overcome this crisis and build back better, using the Sustainable Development Goals as our blueprint for action across the world,” the joint statement said.

The return to the VIC is being organized strictly in accordance with Austria’s workplace regulations as the country emerges cautiously from its lockdown in response to the pandemic.

Up to 20% of each VIC-based organization’s personnel are being allowed back during the first phase of the process, which will last two weeks. The experience will be carefully monitored, and more staff will return in two further phases.

Mandatory safety measures include social distancing of one metre, the use of masks in shared spaces and limits on the number of people in meetings as well as in common facilities such as lifts and the cafeteria. Washable masks are being made available to all staff, with the International Atomic Energy Agency kindly adding to supplies procured by the CTBTO.