PRIORITY companies that want to resume their operations are required to conduct a hundred percent rapid testing for Covid-19 on their employees before they are allowed to open.

This is based on the requirements of the Project Balik Buhay initiated by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas and the tri-city mayors of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

Sought for comment, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Yu said business owners are willing to help the government fast-track the mass testing as this will also speed up the economic recovery of Cebu province.

Yu said they are just waiting for the executive orders per local government unit (LGU) and the list of the accredited testing centers by the Department of Health (DOH).

The MCCI official noted that based on the Project Balik Buhay, all identified companies under Phase 1, 2, and 3a will be required to do 100 percent rapid testing on all of their employees as a pre-requisite for the resumption of operations and it will be shouldered by the private companies.

Companies under Phase 1 are those in the family subsistence and farming, agriculture and agricultural production and fisheries.

Phase 2 covers basic utilities such as water, energy/power, oil/gas, internet/telecom providers, manufacturing (export and domestic), warehousing, distribution and logistics, parts, repairs and maintenance, food production and food supply chain, food retail (take-out and delivery), e-commerce and delivery, health care, pharmacy, banking and finance, business process management, media and priority construction and construction supply.

Phase 3a, on the other hand, are supermarkets, public transport, public markets, private security, hotels and dormitories (long-term stay).

Companies are allowed to purchase test kits provided they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are also free to choose any testing center accredited by the DOH.

“Free market forces will dictate the prices. What DOH and FDA will do is to accredit more test kits and more testing centers to bring down the prices. It will probably cost around P1,000 to P1,500 per test (including extraction and testing),” Yu said.

Green certificate

Employees who passed the test will be given a QR-coded work pass. Companies that are cleared to operate will be given a green certificate, which means zero incidence. Employees who passed the test in their sitios will not be re-tested by the companies.

Moreover, the companies will need to sign a statement of management responsibility and will need to appoint a sanitation, hygiene and infectious disease (SHID) officer. There will be a post-audit team from the LGUs to audit the firms.

“Companies are required to re-test 10 percent of their employees every month, and the SHID officer per company will be on top of the overall management of this process,” Yu explained.

Robert Go, spokesperson of the Philippine Retailers Association-Cebu Chapter, said they are looking for ways to get their people tested before coming to work after the enhanced community quarantine to gain the confidence of both employees and customers that the workplace is Covid-free.

“We are willing to pay for the employees for our own safety. If these laboratories and private hospitals are rolled out by the DOH where they will accept rapid test with certification, I suppose many companies will agree to pay for it,” Go added.

Meanwhile, Rey Calooy, president of the Filipino-Cebuano Business Club, urged the government to help the micro, small and medium enterprises by subsidizing the cost of procuring the rapid tests.

“More than half of our member companies have stopped operations. And they are not even sure if the easing of restrictions for companies would reinvigorate their businesses,” he said.

Calooy said allowing private companies to conduct the testing of its workers is only beneficial to those deep-pocketed firms.