Malacañang said Tuesday the Department of Health had issued guidelines for those returning to work in areas under eased quarantine protocols and restrictions.
Lockdown measures in Metro Manila, Laguna, and several parts of Central Luzon have been downgraded to a modified enhanced community quarantine from Saturday after two months of restrictions closed most businesses and led to the first economic contraction in 22 years.
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According to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, under the guidelines, employers must comply with the following:
• Ensure the work space is properly disinfected, ventilated, and maintained
• Monitor and record employees' temperatures and symptoms daily
• Adopt and implement alternative working arrangements
• Enforce infection control procedures (wearing of masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette)
• Screen workers physically returning to the workplace for symptoms of COVID-19
• Establish referral network for employees who will develop symptoms
• Promote physical and mental resilience among workers
Roque said the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) would cover the cost of coronavirus testing using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, while employers would shoulder the costs of rapid antibody test kits.
The Department of Health said workers who were asymptomatic, with history of travel or exposure to the disease, on the date of work resumption would not be allowed to physically return to work and must consult with the company's primary care provider.
Those who experienced symptoms in the last 14 days prior to their date of work resumption must present certification of quarantine completion, it said.
The agency earlier said coronavirus testing was required only of persons exhibiting symptoms.
According to the DOH, employers may test a representative sample of workers, based on those who are at high-risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their nature of work such as frontliners.
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They may also screen those using rapid anti-body test kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration every 14 days, it added.
In the Senate, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto issued a statement, saying “Test, track and treat” were not the only concerns of workers (but) travel and transport too. They can only get back to work if they can go to places of work safely without COVID hitching a ride.
Recto said: “But the new normal in the pandemic world calls for public transport with reduced capacity and higher operating expense, and yet financially viable to operate.
“The adjustments will cost money—small by Ramon Ang standards, but a fortune for a jeepney driver or an independent taxi operator who hasn’t seen a fare for more than two months.”
Recto was referring to the chief operating officer of the food conglomerate San Miguel Corporation.
According to Recto, “the installation of plastic dividers in taxis, dividing curtains in jeepneys, the migration to cashless fare will be a big investment for them.
“Even the regular disinfection of vehicles is another cost that will whittle down their daily income. Alcohol “na hindi lang pang-sports, pang-pasada pa” will not be given for free.
“Add to these the requirement for jeepney and van drivers to record the names and contact numbers of their passengers and they will have their hands full, literally.
“Government should assist their transition to the new normal. Their crucial role entitles them a place in front of the line for the stimulus fund. After all, what they get from the government will not be for their personal consumption, but to retool the vehicles for the riding public’s safety.”
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According to Recto, “Such assistance also does not require project proposals or complex financial spreadsheets. It is retail spending, which can be carried out with ease.
“But in the plethora of government proposals—PH-PROGRESO Plan of the economic managers, to cite one—the transport sector does not seem to have a prominent and urgent role. It appears they have been ghosted by the government.
Recto said, even before COVID, MRT, LRT and PNR were already struggling to operate above capacity.
Social distancing now forces them to deeply slash their ridership: LRT-1 by 85 percent, LRT-2 by 90 percent, MRT-3 by 87 percvent, PNR Metro North Commuter by 81 percent, and PNR Metro South Commuter by 80 percent.
Recto added: “To say this is catastrophic for passengers, who months ago would queue for hours for the chance to squeeze themselves into packed coaches is an understatement. An LRT and MRT with reduced capacity will be more fearsome than the Train to Busan (in South Korea).
“If social distancing will be enforced on domestic airlines and provincial buses, it will result in higher ticket prices, and longer waiting time to book passage.
“Any semblance of normalcy requires us to move people and products around safely. Absent this, is a picture of an economy at a standstill.”