Except in Alert Level 1 areas: Regular COVID tests for unvaccinated on-site staff

Except in Alert Level 1 areas:  Regular COVID tests for unvaccinated on-site staff
Commuters, who are heading to their workplaces, line up at the Nepa Q-Mart station of the EDSA Bus Carousel in Quezon City early Tuesday morning, June 21, 2022, to beat the influx of passengers.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — On-site workers in both public and private sectors in areas under Alert Level 2 and higher who have yet to get vaccinated against coronavirus must undergo COVID-19 tests, Malacañang announced Tuesday.

"In areas where there are sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, all establishments and employers in the public and private sector shall require their eligible employees who are tasked to do on-site work to be vaccinated against COVID-19," presidential communications chief Martin Andanar said in a statement announcing updated testing requirements.

Under the new rules set by the government’s pandemic task force, unvaccinated employees working in areas under Alert Level 2 and higher will be required to undergo RT-PCR tests once every two weeks or take weekly antigen tests.

Employers, including local government units, may cover the costs of the RT-PCR or antigen tests to be administered, subject to availability of funds, and civil service, accounting and auditing rules and regulations.

Those who have been infected with COVID-19 within the last 90 days and those with alternative working arrangements that do not require on-site reporting are exempted from this testing requirement.

TUCP: Testing should be free

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on Tuesday warned that mandatory testing and vaccination "will create unemployment and underemployment opportunity in the light of our economy striving to recover from the pandemic adversity."

It also said that the policy would derail the momentum of business recovery and would "reduce production, [and make workers] lose our competitiveness."

It said that testing should be made free and accessible, but added that since workers will likely have to shoulder the costs of regular testing, TUCP said "workers and their families will sacrifice some more because a bigger part of their salaries will, again, go to payment for the cost of periodic testing alone."

Early this year, the DOH set the price cap for self-administered antigen test kits at P350 and for antigen testing service at P660.

Meanwhile, the price cap for plate-based RT-PCR test is set at P2,800 and P2,450 for the GenExpert (cartride-based) for public facilities. For private facilities, the price limit is P3,360 for the plate-based test and P2,940 for cartridge-based test.

Symptomatic testing under Alert Level 1

Andanar said the new testing rules are waived in areas under Alert Level 1, "subject to the implementation of clinical-based management, including symptomatic testing."

Metro Manila will remain under the most relaxed quarantine classification until July 15. Here is the list of areas under Alert Levels 1 and 2.

The Philippines is seeing a renewed increase in COVID-19 cases, which authorities attribute to increased mobility, reduced compliance with public health safeguards, presence of fast-spreading variants with immune escape characteristics, and waning vaccine immunity.

Since the pandemic started in 2020, the country has confirmed over 3.7 million COVID-19 infections, with at least 60,000 deaths. — Gaea Katreena Cabico



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