DOLE issues guidelines to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus
Passengers wear facemasks as they sit inside a bus in Manila on January 30, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

DOLE issues guidelines to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus

(Philstar.com) - January 31, 2020 - 3:52pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Labor department ordered all employers to maintain a clean workplace and to monitor the health of their workers to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

DOLE on Friday issued Labor Advisory 4, which laid down the guidelines to prevent and control the spread of the new coronavirus at workplaces. This applies to all employers and workers in the private sector.

This, after the Philippines reported its first case coronavirus in the country—a 38-year-old woman who arrived from Wuhan, the epicenter of the SARS-like illness—on Thursday.

All employers were directed to follow these precautionary measures at the workplace:

  • Provide information about 2019-nCoV including its transmission, disease outcome, and treatment options to their workers
  • Clean the work areas with disinfectant and ensure that water, soap and sanitizer are available in all washrooms 
  • Avoid or reduce direct exposure of workers to animals, environments and objects which may be possibly carrying the 2019-nCoV
  • Make sure food in canteens or similar areas is properly prepared, handled and cooked
  • Emphasize to all workers the everyday actions to stay healthy and keep a clean workplace
  • Monitor the health of workers particularly those with fever and other flu symptoms and those who have traveled to or worked in countries affected with the 2019-nCoV.

Healthcare and other frontline services workers must take “extra” precautionary measures, which include strict hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment, DOLE said.

Care for sick workers

If a worker is suspected of having the novel coronavirus, the employer should:

  • Provide the worker with a face mask
  • Isolate the worker immediately in a separate well-ventilated room in the workplace, away from other employees
  • Refer the worker to the company health care provider or to the nearest hospital for laboratory confirmation
  • Report the worker to the Department of Health by calling numbers: 8-711-1001 and 8-711-1002
  • Ensure the implementation of recommendations provided by the DOH on the management and transport of suspected coronavirus case
  • Observe respiratory precautions when taking care of patients with flu or flu-like illness
  • Decontaminate the work area with appropriate disinfectant

If a worker is sick or has fever but is not suspected to have 2019-nCoV, the employer must advise the employee to:

  • Stay at home and keep away from work or crowds
  • Take adequate rest and plenty of fluids
  • Practice personal hygiene
  • Seek appropriate medical care if there is persistent fever, when there is difficulty in breathing or when the employee becomes weak

DOLE said PhilHealth members and their dependents who contracted the new coronavirus may avail of PhilHealth hospital benefits.

Workers are also entitled to sickness benefits under the Social Security System and employees’ compensation benefits.

“In the event that the worker is not qualified to avail of the benefits under SSS or PhilHealth due to the fault of the employer, the employer shall shoulder all the medical expenses under full recovery,” DOLE said.

Leave entitlements

For workers who are requested to stay at home or who are served quarantine order by their employers, their leave of absence may be charged to their annual sick or vacation leave credits under the company policy or as stipulated in their collective bargaining agreement.

“If the worker’s leave credits have been used up, employers could consider granting leave of absence without pay. However, employers are encouraged to exercise flexibility and compassion in granting additional leave with pay,” DOLE said.

It added employers and employees could also agree on other arrangements for the worker’s leave of absence.

Employers were also encouraged to adopt a “flexible and enlightened” approach in granting time-off for workers who need to take a leave to take care of their children or parents infected or suspected of having 2019-nCoV.

“For workers who have used up their vacation or sick leave credits, employers could consider granting them leave of absence without pay,” the agency said. 

The World Health Organization declared Friday a global emergency over the spreading of the SARS-like illness that has killed 213 in China and infected nearly 10,000. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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