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15,000 workers to take regular Covid tests

LEGAZPI CITY --- Nearly 15,000 workers in hundreds of private establishments in the region will undergo regular coronavirus disease (Covid-19) tests to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in workplaces, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Bicol regional office said on Monday, Aug. 17.

Johanna Vi Gasga, DOLE Bicol spokesperson, said DOLE and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) signed a Joint Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 20-04 series of 2020, which provided supplemental guidelines on workplace prevention and control measures against the spread of Covid-19.

Under the DTI-DOLE joint MC, workers in the hospitality and tourism sectors, manufacturing companies, including frontline and economic priority employees, would be required to undergo regular Covid-19 tests to ensure the safety of the employees and their customers.

Gasga said 99 inspectors from DOLE and DTI were dispatched on Aug. 14 to serve notice and conduct inspections of some 853 establishments across the region to ensure strict compliance of the provisions of the joint circular.

She said the inspection showed that of the total inspected establishments, only 63 percent had compliance rate after 313 establishments were found to have deficiencies in complying with the minimum health standards set by the joint circular.

Under the circular, employers are required to subject their employees to regular Covid-19 tests.

“The Covid test must be at no cost to the employees,” the MC said.

In an interview, Alec Santos, Naga City’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO) chief, said that DOLE has not yet coordinated with his office regarding the join circular.

“The issue is: We don’t have private testing labs in Bicol and (testing) backlogs at Bicol Medical Center (BMC) and Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) have piled up. How can we accommodate 15,000 more?” he said.

Aside from the Covid-19 tests, employers should supply their employees free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face mask and face shields, and they should follow the physical distancing guidelines.

Identified to undergo real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR test) are workers in: 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.

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