Press Release
April 23, 2020

Villanueva: DOLE should mandate industries, sectors to put COVID-19 mitigation measures before allowing to resume operations

Once certain sectors are allowed to operate as the government restarts the economy, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must mandate employers to conduct regular, randomized tests on its workers to monitor and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

With the gargantuan task of striking a balance between public health and the economy, policymakers should consider allowing industries and sectors providing essential goods and services to operate as long as they maintain hygiene and sanitation protocols, coupled with regular testing among its workers, Villanueva explained.

"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, among others," Villanueva said in a statement, citing a discussion paper by the University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE) on the topic.

"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," continued the lawmaker, who chairs the Senate Labor committee.

"Those who can work from home should continue to do so, especially our senior-aged workers who are at a high risk of contracting the disease. We now have a law on work flexibility and we should continue to take advantage of that," he added.

Citing occupational safety and health standards, DOLE could set guidelines and parameters on resuming its operations, keeping in mind minimizing the risks of workers to contract the disease, according to the lawmaker.

He suggested that industries and sectors that would be allowed to resume operations should likewise provide temporary lodging and point-to-point transportation for its workers to minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19 from their communities and give them a lift since public transport is limited.

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.

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.

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