Medical workers call for decongestion of workplaces as COVID-19 cases surge

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Medical workers call for decongestion of workplaces as COVID-19 cases surge
Commuters of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 observe social distancing by staying on designated markers on the station platforms and coaches in Manila on Sunday, March 14, 2021 as the Light Rail Transit Authority strictly enforces minimum health protocols.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of healthcare professionals called on private firms and local government units to implement measures such as staggered working hours and coordinated contact tracing as the country deals with another spike in COVID-19 cases.

In a briefing Tuesday, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 (HPAAC), a coalition of more than 160 medical societies, asked businesses and local governments to improve situation in workplaces and communities.

The call comes as spike in cases reached a seven-month high Monday and as local governments, particularly in outbreak epicenter Metro Manila, expand granular lockdowns, reimpose curfews and liquor bans and prohibit minors from going out of their homes for two weeks.

What should private firms do?

HPAAC asked the private sector to allow work from home arrangements and implement staggered work hours to avoid congestion inside workplaces and public utility vehicles.

It also urged businesses to improve ventilation in workplace and intensify the enforcement of “Apat Dapat” campaign. These include:

  • A – Air circulation and ventilation
  • P – Physical distancing of one meter or more
  • A – Always use face mask and face shield
  • T – Thirty minutes interactions or less

What about LGUs?

Aside from imposing granular lockdowns, capacitating Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams and improving the quality of care in isolation facilities, LGUs must have coordinated contact tracing system, HPAAC said.

Other suggestions include the following:

  • Accelerate pop-up bike lanes
  • Create open spaces for business and leisure activities
  • Discourage dining in enclosed spaces; go for take outs

Dr. Antonio Dans said LGUs should reconsider their decision to impose curfews as these limit the number of work and travel hours, packing work areas and streets. 

No call for ‘timeout’ yet

Members of HPAAC include medical societies that previously appealed for a “timeout” in August last year and called on the government to recalibrate its COVID-19 pandemic response.

“Things didn’t really changed much since we called for a timeout in August and we have to be humble enough to admit that we have failed in so many aspects in terms of our preventive measures in both personal and institutional levels,” Dr. Aileen Espina said.

Now that there’s another spike in cases, HPAAC said it is not calling for “timeout” yet.

“Lockdown is still an option if we reach the point that the healthcare system is really overwhelmed beyond its capacity to effectively address the COVID-19 cases. But at this point, we feel that there is still something we can do to mitigate the surge. How long can we mitigate this? It depends on us doing all of these things together,” Espina said in Filipino.

‘Don’t blame the public’

The Department of Health said the public’s failure to comply with minimum health protocols is the “underlying cause” of the increase in cases. It also said the presence of more transmissible variants is aggravating the situation.

“Let's stop blaming the people. They're doing everything they can to comply. But we force them into crowds, we force them into enclosed spaces. We force them into situtations where they cannot follow those four rules, ‘Apat Dapat,’” Dans said.

“Our call is mainly to the LGUs and business establishments to help people comply,” he added.


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