DOLE urged to impose anti-COVID-19 measures before allowing business ops to resume

Robie de Guzman   •   April 24, 2020   •   607

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should impose policies to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in workplaces, such as conducting random and regular testing on workers, before companies are allowed to resume operations, Senator Joel Villanueva said.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, said DOLE must mandate employers to put in place precautionary measures to prevent the COVID-19 crisis from getting worse once the government restarts the economy.

Industries and sectors providing essential goods and services may be allowed to resume operations as long as they impose measures which may include regular testing among its workers, coupled with the continued hygiene and sanitation protocols.

Citing a report by the University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE), the senator said industries that are necessary to boost the economy may be allowed to operate, provided they follow strict protocols on social distancing, sanitizing and use of personal protective equipment.

“One of the most important insight that the paper offered is the value of conducting randomized testing of workers for surveillance and monitoring. This is very important to make sure that we also catch those who are asymptomatic,” Villanueva said in a statement Thursday.

The UPSE discussion paper, titled “A Sectoral View of Lifting the Lockdown and the Use of Sample-based Random Testing,” highlights the importance of evaluating the economic value of each sector and the risk it poses in spreading COVID-19 before being allowed to resume operations.

The paper, published on April 21, also advocates for a sample-based random testing for workers in industries and sectors that will be allowed to run after the lifting of the quarantine.

“Again, the key is monitoring and surveillance. Both the DOLE and Department of Trade and Industry should make it a prerequisite for businesses which will be allowed to operate to do regular randomized testing of their workers,” Villanueva said.

He also proposed that businesses that would be allowed to resume operations should provide temporary lodging and point-to-point transportation for its since public transport is limited.

The lawmaker also said that companies may continue to enforce a work-from-home setup, especially for senior-aged workers who are at-risk of contracting the disease.

“We now have a law on work flexibility and we should continue to take advantage of that,” he added, referring to the law institutionalizing telecommuting as a work arrangement.

Villanueva likewise suggested for DOLE to set guidelines and parameters, in compliance with occupational safety and health standards, to minimize the risk of workers in getting the disease.

He also said that online selling platforms and logistics are two sectors that have shown resilience given the strict enforcement of social distancing and community quarantine.

“Brick-and-mortar stores which belong to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) should also consider adopting to the times so they could resume operations,” he said.

QC to conduct contact tracing after mayor tests positive for COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 9, 2020

The Quezon City’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (QCESU) on Thursday said it will conduct a contact tracing on those who recently had direct contact with Mayor Joy Belmonte and two other employees who tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

QCESU head Dr. Rolly Cruz said employees who had contact with Belmonte and the two other staff will undergo swab testing, especially those working on the third and 14th floors of the city hall.

“Other people who had direct contact with the Mayor and the two other employees, including visitors, will also undergo swab testing,” Cruz said.

“Employees who will be tested need to undergo home quarantine until results are released as part of protocol,” said Cruz, adding that results will be out in three days.

Belmonte earlier said she is not manifesting symptoms of COVID-19 and that her office have already been closed for disinfection.

Other parts of the city hall will also undergo sanitation but operations will remain normal as not all employees came in direct contact with the mayor in the past few days.

Belmonte also assured she will continue to discharge her duties and functions as mayor even under quarantine through various alternative work arrangements.

Duterte on reopening the economy: ‘We cannot afford to gamble’

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The country is not yet ready to fully reopen its economy, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Chief Executive said the government is doing the process gradually, otherwise the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections would spike that could lead to a bigger problem.

He said he cannot follow the example of other countries because the Philippines does not have as much resources if the situation gets worse.

“Tayong pobre we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. Mahirap tayo. Hindi tayo puwedeng sumugal (As a poor country, we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. We are poor. We cannot afford to gamble),” the President said during his public address on Tuesday evening (July 7).

President Duterte cited situations in the United States and Brazil where despite being powerful and wealthy, are not spared from the impact of the pandemic.

“Although they opened their economy for money to come into the government coffers, there was a spike. They were having a problem of almost a relapse — in the totality of the number,” he added.

Meanwhile, the President expressed doubts that the country has entered the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now we do not even know if the number of 34, 178 of active cases is still a part of the first wave or have we arrived at the second wave. I don’t think so. We are still grappling with the first wave,” he argued.

He urged Filipinos to obey strict health protocols and have more patience as the government works to combat the pandemic.

Mga kababayan ko, ako mismo gusto ko nang lumabas. Ayoko nang magpapigil. Kung gusto ko nga makipag-away na ako. Ang problema iyon ang gusto ko, pero ang gusto ko ay hindi makakabuti sa ating lahat,” he said.

(My fellow countrymen, I personally I want to go out. I don’t want to be barred from doing so. I am even ready to fight over this. The problem is, what I want is not good for everyone.)

“We have to be very circumspect in reopening the economy. Dahan-dahan lang (Let’s do it gradually), because if you open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of new cases would happen, then we are in deep s***. Talagang mahirapan tayo (We will seriously struggle),” he said. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

New York City schools to reopen with in-class, remote learning, mayor says

UNTV News   •   July 9, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday (July 8) unveiled a plan for reopening the country’s largest school system in September with a “blended learning” schedule that would have students alternating between classrooms and their homes.

“So many New Yorkers desperately need to get back to work. For a lot of people, that means they have to get back to a workplace and they need to know that their kids will be safe and secure, getting a chance to be educated much more deeply,” de Blasio told reporters during news conference.

De Blasio said the city’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests was at 1%, the lowest level it has reached since the coronavirus epidemic began. (Reuters)

(Production: Catherine Koppel)

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