DOLE, DTI issue more COVID-19 guidelines for firms

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    AS the Philippine economy attempts to further open, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) yesterday issued additional guidelines for companies amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

    In a statement quoting DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-4-A, the two agencies said provision of shuttle services is now mandatory for large companies or those with total assets of above P100 million.

    “Big companies or those with total assets of above P100 million located inside special economic zones and other areas under the jurisdiction of investment promotion agencies are required to provide shuttle services for their employees,” said the DOLE and DTI.

    In case the private establishments are unable to financially sustain the provision of shuttle services, the guidelines stated that companies may adopt alternative arrangements, such as cost-sharing, partial vouchers for use of Transport Network Vehicle Services, or contracting services of public utility vehicles (PUV).

    “They may adopt alternative arrangements to facilitate the transportation needs of their employees,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III noted.

    On the other hand, in the event of having a need to shutdown the workplace, DOLE and DTI said implementation of a “granular” lockdown is now allowed.

    Bello noted how temporary closure of the workplace is allowed in order to give way to disinfection activities.

    “A more extensive contact tracing practices including procedures for a granular lockdown of the building/facility (i.e. closure of a section/floor/unit of the building/facility) for disinfection, to ensure continuity of operations, must also be observed,” stated under JMC 2020-4-A.

    The two agencies added that a shorter lockdown period of less than 24 hours for disinfection activities is being allowed.

    “(That is) provided that the safety of employees is ascertained and a certificate of return to work from the specialists/cleaners/disinfecting agents is secured,” said the DOLE and DTI.

    Lastly, the government said business establishments are required to designate an isolation area of one room for every 200 employees based on the average number of workers reporting to work per shift.

    DOLE and DTI said the isolation rooms could be outside the establishments, provided that they are within the control of the employer, and is readily available when necessary.

    MEDICAL WORKERS

    The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) had submitted to President Duterte a report on the advantages and disadvantages of prolonging or lifting the deployment ban on health workers bound for abroad along with the options available to address their plight, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles has said.

    Nograles, in the Karlos Nograles Live (KNL) program over Facebook, said the IATF had been discussing the issue of the deployment ban and the plight of the nurses and other healthcare workers.

    “We have submitted some options to President Duterte, let us just wait for his decision about it,” he said.

    Nograles, co-chair of the IATF, had urged health workers who either already have contracts but are still waiting for the lifting of the ban, or those who still have no work at present, to consider applying in government-run health facilities.

    He noted that the Department of Health (DoH) and some local government units like Quezon City are hiring medical workers like nurses and medical technologists.

    He said the government needs more health or medical frontliners because of the additional isolation and quarantine facilities that are being put up and the continued expansion of hospital facilities to put up more beds for COVID-19 patients.

    SPORTS

    In the same program, Nograles said the IATF has yet to allow the conduct of basketball games and similar contact sport games in the country despite permitting the conduct of “conditioning training sessions” for activities in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) and GCQ.

    He made the announcement after the IATF turned over to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) the issue involving former University of the Santo Tomas men’s basketball team had coach Aldin Ayo who had been indefinitely suspended by the University Athletics’ Association of the Philippines (UAAP) following the training bubble he conducted Metro Manila was under strict lockdown.

    Nograles said the IATF had only allowed the conduct of non-contact indoor sports, among walking, jogging, running, biking, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian, range shooting, and skateboarding.

    Basketball, he added, is a contact sport.

    He said the task force is now studying proposals sent by different sports and athletes’ associations on the possible resumption of contact games.

    Nograles acknowledged that in the United States, the National Basketball Association (NBA) had already allowed the resumption of basketball games.

    He said this is possible because the NBA has a facility in Orlando in Florida where the players are currently housed in the compound during the duration of the season. The players are only allowed to stay in the facility after testing negative for COVID-19. – With Jocelyn Montemayor