Workplace must be locked down for at least 2 days once a COVID-19 case is confirmed – gov’t

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 14) — A 24-hour lockdown before and after disinfection should be enforced as soon as a COVID-19 case is confirmed in a workplace, according to the government’s new guidelines.

“The building must be locked down for 24 hours prior to disinfection to lessen transmission to sanitation personnel,” the Labor and Trade departments said in a joint memorandum circular released on Friday.

“The building may only be opened 24 hours after the disinfection process,” the order read. This means a lockdown of at least two days when an employee tests positive for coronavirus.

In the event of case clustering, or when there are two more confirmed infections from the same facility, employers are “encouraged” to come up with their own company policies on the temporary closure of the workplace, disinfection, and intensified contact tracing.

Employers are “highly encouraged” to send their employees for testing once every quarter and to shoulder the cost for such.

In a public meeting with local officials in Cavite this week, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez made it clear that the government does not require RT-PCR and rapid antibody tests for employees to be allowed to report to work.

He said only those with symptoms or are close contacts of infected patients should undergo RT-PCR testing, considered as the “gold standard” in detecting the virus.

Prior to the testing, employers should inform the local government units that have jurisdiction over the workplace and the employees’ residences for proper monitoring.

The government issued interim guidelines on the prevention and control of COVID-19 in the workplace when quarantine restrictions were eased in May.

The supplemental guidelines came after health authorities raised concerns over COVID-19 transmissions in offices. The order covers all private establishments and takes effect immediately upon publication and filing with the University of the Philippines Law Center.

Intensified contact tracing

The government has also made it mandatory for customers and visitors to complete a Contact Tracing Form upon entering a private establishment or business premises. They will be asked to provide their full name, address, contact information, and date and time of visit.

The forms should be surrendered to the company’s Human Resources officer for reference and safekeeping.

Contactless forms are encouraged, but must be handled with confidentiality and disposed of after 30 days.

Isolation areas, safety officers

Lopez earlier announced some of the new rules, including requiring large and medium companies, or those with an asset size of above ₱15 million, to set up isolation facilities with dedicated restrooms. There should be one isolation area for every 200 employees.

Malls and buildings shall have at least one isolation area near the entrances. Companies that are unable to establish an isolation area may make arrangements with a temporary treatment and monitoring facility nearby, or with local authorities.

READ: Isolation centers, protocol officers soon required in some workplaces – DTI

Companies should also designate a safety officer, or an employee who will be trained by the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure that health protocols are observed, including the wearing of face masks and face shields, and physical distancing.

Meanwhile, the government has lifted the ban on dine-in at office canteens as long as there are proper barriers and social distancing.

Lopez said businesses that fail to comply with any of the government's guidelines will be warned at first, but repeat offenses will lead to temporary closure until the requirements are met.