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Mandatory COVID-19 testing of returning workers urged

Raymart Lolo



Relaxed quarantine measures saw a fraction of employees in Metro Manila go back to work on Monday. (Photo: entrepreneurhandbook)

A labor group and government officials called for mandatory testing of employees before they are allowed to go back to work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Defend Jobs Philippines expressed concern over employees who will resume work without being tested first. It said easing quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila should not mean relaxed treatment on the health protocols.

“The Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases must have stricter rules and guidelines to private employers to require its workers to undergo coronavirus testing and comply with various precautionary measures in ensuring the health and safety of their employees in this time of pandemic,” said Thadeus Ifurung, Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson.

In San Juan, Mayor Francis Zamora required business establishments to have their employees tested.

“Napaka-importante talaga dyan na dapat ‘yung mga empleyadong papasok ay na-test na para sa COVID-19 at dapat ang resulta ay negative,” Zamora said in a statement.

“Hindi talaga natin papayagan na basta-basta lang papasok ‘yung mga empleyado na hindi nate-test sapagkat ayaw naman natin na tumaas ang bilang ng positibong pasyente dito sa lungsod ng San Juan.”

Businesses must also submit return-to-work plans to the Business Permits and Licensing Office for approval and issuance of certificates.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, is worried over asymptomatic patients infecting their fellow workers.

In a social media post, Hontiveros said the DOH should initiate the testing.

“We need to test workers returning to work. This needs to be arranged by employers & DOH. We can’t ease quarantine if we‘re not doing mass testing,” Hontiveros stated. “Marami sa mga kaso walang sintomas. We cannot afford a second wave.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello previously said returning workers do not need to undergo mandatory COVID-19 test as only symptomatic individuals should be required to do so.

Under relaxed quarantine protocols, only 50 percent of a company’s workforce can be physically present. Still, Bello said, employers must comply with minimum health standards, including temperature check for the workers as well as implementing strict sanitation protocols. (Hana Bordey and Neil Alcober)