Press Release
May 18, 2020

Villanueva: Regular COVID-19 testing for workers part of new normal as movement restrictions relaxed

In implementing a regular, randomized testing in the workplace, this proactive approach would heighten the monitoring of COVID-19 among workers and dampen the rise of the infection rate in the country, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva appealed to the government to reconsider its directive to the private sector on testing workers for COVID-19, fearing the second wave of infections could further accelerate sooner than expected after movement restrictions were relaxed over the weekend.

He pointed out the importance of regular testing, done in coordination with the Department of Health and relevant authorities, increases the government's ability to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and deploy its limited resources efficiently.

"There is a need for strong surveillance of COVID-19 in the workplace. The absence of that will put our workers at risk and will add to the strain of our healthcare system," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development.

"There is no need to regularly test all workers, but we need to do regular/weekly testing of a representative sample of workers to make sure the virus is not spreading in the workplace. I am hoping the IATF will rethink the strategy and workplace protocol," the lawmaker continued in a statement.

He explained that by doing the test regularly in the workplace using a systematized sampling method gives employers a general overview of their health situation, and weed out asymptomatic patients who may have acquired the disease unwittingly from their communities or elsewhere.

He also reminded employers that their operations must always be bound by occupational safety and health standards, which mandate a safe working environment for workers.

Regular testing serves as an assurance for workers that their workplace is safe, and such measure increases the ability of the employer to detect and isolate potential patients, preventing them to infect others that could jeopardize the entire operation, Villanueva said.

He also reiterated his appeal to extend the COVID-19 coverage of PhilHealth to help employers defray the cost of testing in the short-term while businesses are trying to get back on their feet. Philhealth coverage for COVID-19 testing ended on April 14.

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