Senators seek ₱1-M death benefit; ₱100K aid for COVID-infected health workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 24)— Health workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic should be entitled to additional compensation if they contract the infectious disease, lawmakers said.

Senate Bill No. 1418— which was approved on third and final reading past midnight on Tuesday— seeks to grant a ₱100,000 compensation for both public and private health workers "severely" infected by the disease while in line of duty.

The proposed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act also pushes for a ₱1 million assistance for the families and loved ones of health workers who may succumb to COVID-19.

The measure— if approved by President Rodrigo Duterte— would also give a "special risk allowance" for all public health workers, on top of the hazard pay they are entitled to under Republic Act No. 7305 or the Magna Carta of the Public Health Workers.

The bill will also direct the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers "in case of exposure to COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease during the duration of the emergency."

READ: PhilHealth assures enough funds for PH COVID-19 response

After Monday's marathon special session, the upper chamber, voting 12-0, approved the said measure which would grant the chief executive additional powers to deal with the country's COVID-19 crisis.

Aside from the provisions on compensation, the new bill will also allow the possible realignment of funding in the 2020 budget and the allocation of funds and investments of government agencies to address the emergency. It also seeks to provide an "emergency subsidy" for millions of low income households.

The bill will likewise give the executive the power to purchase essential medical supplies, assign venues that may be used as quarantine centers, as well as other goods and services for COVID-19-affected communities.

The proposed law also lets Duterte implement other preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease— including fast-tracking of testing for persons under investigation and monitoring for COVID-19, regulation of public and private transport, regulation of traffic on all roads, and ensuring compliance of local government units for the community quarantine standards.

The Philippines has recorded 462 confirmed cases of the dreaded diseases, with the biggest single-day increase reported on Monday. These include 33 fatalities and 18 recoveries.