On May 18, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez clarified with the public and business sector concerning the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing of employees before returning to work.
DTI and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) released last month the Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19.
In alignment with the Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum No. 2020-2020, the national government does not require testing of all employees before returning to work.
The Inter-Agency Task Force also noted this under Section 8.4 of the Omnibus Guidelines dated 15 May 2020.
“Following the DOH guidelines, companies should screen all employees in terms of temperature scanning and check if they are symptomatic or have had exposure to patients who are positive for COVID-19. As the gold standard, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing will be administered only to this group who are symptomatic and/or suspected of having COVID-19. The rest of the employees can be permitted to resume work,” Lopez said in his press statement.
He further continued that companies have the option to conduct testing for all their employees.
“Accordingly, the cost of testing not covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) shall be borne by the employer. But this also means the employer can reimburse the cost from PhilHealth up to the amount allowed and under such conditions sanctioned by PhilHealth,” he added.
Among these conditions is for testing to follow the DOH protocols.
“Lastly, we must accept the cost of testing as an indispensable expense of companies under the new normal. But to reiterate, PCR testing is not required for all but only for those who are symptomatic and are suspected of having COVID-19 following DOH protocol,” Lopez concluded.
See full document here: DTI and DOLE INTERIM GUIDELINES ON WORKPLACE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF COVID-19
Malacañang leaves to private firms the decision on whether or not to conduct COVID-19 testing for their employees.
In a virtual presser on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said workers do not need to be tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to report to work unless they showed symptoms of the disease.
“We are giving recognition to the initiative of the private sector na sila na mismo ang bumili ng rapid test kits para ma-test ang kanilang mga empleyado,” Roque said.
He explained that the government is still trying to enhance its current testing capacity by opening up more laboratories that can conduct Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and acquiring more rapid antibody test kits.
Meanwhile, the medical societies in the country highly discouraged the use of the COVID-19 rapid test.
“We are deeply concerned about the high level of inaccuracies of the rapid antibody test, particularly the high prevalence of ‘false positives,'” the group said in a joint statement.
The joint statement was issued by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), the Philippine College of Occupational Medicine (PCOM), the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians (PSPHP), the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine (PSGIM), and the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP).
“Studies show that there is still a high incidence of ‘false positive’ results when these rapid antibody tests are used in an asymptomatic population,” the group added.
PCOM President Dr. Phil Pangilinan also said that the rapid antibody test kits do not detect the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.