Senator Joel Villanueva said the 16.5 percent contraction of the economy in the second quarter of the year—the worst recorded in nearly three decades—should serve as a warning for policymakers not to rely on lockdowns alone to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Villanueva asked the government to consider implementing heightened disease monitoring in workplaces after the Department of Health identified this as among the areas where COVID-19 was transmitted, aside from communities.
“We have always advocated for workplace disease monitoring because of the strong likelihood of transmission when there is a gathering of people at a single location. Workplace monitoring should have been included as part of the minimum requirement in the resumption of business operations,” he said.
“We have to ensure that we are able to control the spread while allowing a portion of the economy to operate,” Villanueva said in a statement.
He also urged the Department of Labor and Employment to continue with its labor inspections to ensure that minimum health standards were strictly observed in workplaces and encourage employers to implement regular, randomized testing among its workforce.
“If infections spread in the workplace and remain undetected, asymptomatic workers could bring the disease to their homes and communities. We will have uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 and we will be forced to do ECQs,” he added.
“Our policymakers should not rely on implementing lockdowns alone. It disrupts the economy and it disrupts lives. Every time a worker is forced to stay home and does not have an opportunity to earn, it hinders their access to basic goods and decent quality of life. It also affects our economy since we are largely driven by household consumption,” continued the lawmaker, who chairs the Senate labor committee.
He also appealed to the government to consider providing assistance to employers who would implement regular, randomized testing among its workforce to help them defray the cost and encourage the practice.
Villanueva asked the Employees’ Compensation Commission to immediately process medical assistance claims of workers who would be placed under quarantine.
Villanueva underscored the importance of heightened disease surveillance in workplaces after authorities reported that another workplace yielded nearly 300 workers positive for COVID-19 in Laguna on July 30.
“This only shows that DOLE should consider making mandatory the conduct of regular, randomized testing in workplaces to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the workplace,” he said, adding the agency should also ensure that disinfection should be done in workplaces regularly as well.
With the modified enhanced community quarantine reimposed in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna until Aug. 18, the government sought to slow down the spread of the infection as hospitals in the capital were nearing its maximum capacity.
Healthcare workers have pleaded with the government to rethink its strategy in preventing the spread of COVID-19 as the easing of movement restrictions contributed to the surge in the number of cases.
As of Aug. 6, the government reported there were 119,490 confirmed cases, with 3,561 cases tagged as new.
Since July 30, the number of new cases averaged by at least 3,000 cases daily, with the highest single-day tally recorded on Aug. 4 with 6,263 new cases.