By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday pushed for the mandatory COVID-19 testing of employees who will report for work under a modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).
Hontiveros pointed out that if the government can require mandatory coronavirus testing for all workers in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry, there’s no reason why it cannot require the same for Filipino workers who are facing the same risks.
The senator said mandatory COVID-19 testing for returning employees is an essential measure to protect Filipino workers and lessen the risk of their and their families’ exposure.
“If we can commit to test POGO workers, we can commit to test Filipino workers,” Hontiveros said.
“Kasama dapat sa dagdag-proteksyon sa manggagawang Pilipino na balik-trabaho sa gitna ng pandemic ang proper testing (Proper testing should be an additional protection for Filipino workers who will return to work in the middle of a pandemic,” she added.
Malacañang had earlier announced the lifting and easing of quarantine protocols in many parts of the country by May 16.
Under the new rules, movement and mobility in areas still under modified ECQ, like Metro Manila, will remain restricted, although manufacturing and processing plants workforce will be allowed to operate with 50 percent of their workforce.
In areas under GCQ, government offices and private establishments will be allowed to reopen with as much as 75 percent of their workforce.
“While we want working class Filipinos to continue earning a living and critical industries to remain operational, we must implement measures to prevent a possible second spread of COVID-19 in workplaces,” Hontiveros said.
She said that while the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade Industry (DTI) have issued safety guidelines for workplaces, the rules provide no means to detect and isolate workers who are infected with COVID-19 but show no symptoms.
“Kailangan nating mag-doble-ingat. Kahit walang sintomas, maari pa ring carrier ng COVID-19 (That’s why we need to double our efforts. Because even without the symptoms, one can still be a carrier of COVID-19),” she pointed out.
“This is why we need to test people as they go back to work,” the senator said.
“The private sector and the government should work together to build disease-free workplaces by implementing measures that protect Filipino workers’ health such as the wearing of PPE (personal protective equipment) and implementing social distancing and other workplace safety guidelines,” she added.