DOLE requires regular swab tests for workers

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    WHILE not everyone, a large number of workers are now required to undergo regular reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

    Based on Joint Memorandum Circular No. 20-04, or the “DTI and DOLE Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19,” workers in the hospitality and tourism sectors, manufacturing companies, including frontline and economic priority employees, will be required to undergo regular swab tests to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces.

    “The COVID-19 testing must be at no cost to the employees,” Bello said.

    Identified to undergo RT–PCR tests are workers in the tourist zones, local manufacturing companies, transport and logistics, food retail, education, financial services, non-food retail, services, public market, construction; water supply, sewerage, and waste management; public sector, and mass media.

    The guidelines specifically mandate that all employees in the hospitality and tourism sectors in El Nido, Boracay, Coron, Panglao, Siargao, and other tourist zones, as identified and declared by the Department of Tourism, should undergo the test once every four weeks.

    For employees of manufacturing companies and public service providers in economic zones located within Special Concern Areas, they must be tested once every quarter.

    A once-every quarter swab test is required for frontline and economic priority workers, or those who work in high priority sectors, both public and private; and those who have high interaction with and exposure to the public and live or work in special concern areas.

    Aside from the regular testing, DOLE and DTI also decided to enhance other workplace protocols in a bid to minimize the transmission of the virus among workers.

    “This is so far the most comprehensive set of guidelines for the safety and protection of workers and employees in workplaces. The strict observance of these health protocols will make a big difference in our long-drawn battle to defeat COVID-19 and ensure the productivity of the Filipino workforce,” said Bello.

    The joint DOLE-DTI guidelines state that masks with a vent are prohibited, while face shields must cover the entire face. Cloth masks with an additional filter, such as tissue paper or similar material may be used as long as they are clean and washed daily, while visor-types are not allowed to be used.

    Adequate ventilation must also be strictly enforced inside the workplace, including the installation of exhaust fans and air filtration devices.

    Bello said employers classified as large and medium-sized private establishments, or those with total assets of above P15 million, are enjoined to provide shuttle services to their employees.

    Sick leave benefits, medical insurance coverage, including supplemental pay allowance, for COVID-19 RT-PCR test-confirmed employees or close contacts made to undergo a 14-day quarantine must also be provided to workers.

    The DOLE-DTI guidelines likewise require employers to ensure that the employees, regardless of work arrangements, have access to telemedicine services.

    Also, the government encouraged large and medium private establishments or those with multiple tenants, to designate an isolation area of one room for every 200 employees, which shall be other than the company clinic, with those unable to establish an isolation area urged to make arrangements with a temporary treatment and monitoring facility nearby or with the barangay local government unit.