IF THERE'S one thing that this global crisis has caused to mankind today, it is the fear and realization that we are all vulnerable to this deadly virus, giving a kind of equality no matter what status of life we are in. As people die defenseless and as we grasp for filtered air in our day-to-day living, we look back at the times when we were practically scot-free, crowding in malls and parks, attending social functions and conferences and travelling to places and basically enjoying what life gives. Well, those days may not happen again.
This time around, it looks like we all need to adapt to this wave of new normal and observe new sets of protocols. From the enhanced community quarantine to the different levels of general community quarantine, we cannot go about our usual ways and put our defenses down. As for me and my family, we are trying to cope with the whole situation and observe what authorities imposes no matter how restrictive these are. Being in the government service, our working days are split from work-from-home to work-as-skeletal-force. For our programs, we are already adapting distance learning and training with webinars and online conferences. I often document our field activities in my coverall or jumpsuits with a hand sanitizer in my pocket. I have a face-shield and sets of acrylic gloves and should the situation requires, I have a personal protection equipment or PPE donated by a good friend in the photography industry who also spared one for my wife.
Earlier this month, the Department of Labor and Employment and my office, the Department of Trade and Industry released sets of guidelines for private companies which are allowed to operate during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).
Said guidelines states that all workplaces, employers, and workers in the private sector are to develop basic health protocols and standards in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Part of the set guidelines include mandatory wearing of face masks in buildings and workplaces; accomplishment of daily health symptoms questionnaire to be submitted to the guard-on-duty or safety officer; temperature checks; use of alcohol/sanitizers and putting of disinfection booths or foot baths in workplaces, if possible.
Things like frequently handled objects such as doorknobs and handles shall be cleaned and disinfected regularly and all washrooms and toilets shall have sufficient clean water and soap.
Workers aside from washing their hands frequently are advised to always practice physical distancing with a minimum of one-meter between each worker while working and even in eating in groups.
The guideline set by DOLE and DTI also discourages prolonged face-to-face interaction between workers and clients and my office especially those that receives clients has plastic shields just like what we see in drug stores and other commercial counters these days.
Meetings needing physical presence shall be shortened and with a minimum number of participants and for lengthy discussions, videoconferencing is suggested as an alternative.
Accordingly, there should be company protocols and isolation areas designated for testing Covid-19 suspected workers where they can immediately be tested at the workplace and transported of the nearest hospital if needed.
Employers may test workers for Covid-19 according to the guideline but testing kits used and procured shall be the responsibility of the employers.
During our recent townhouse online discussion facilitated by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo explained that the joint interim guidelines aim to assist private businesses allowed to resume operation during the modified enhanced and general community quarantine in developing and enforcing minimum health protocols and standards in the workplace. Castelo also noted that employers who choose to test returning employees must comply with the DOH guidelines on Expanded Testing for Covid-19 and the Guidelines for Securing a License to Operate a Covid-19 Testing Laboratory.
These are just among the things that we in the economic industry are facing and what is striking is the statement of some officials saying that there is no more going back to the usual because of this pandemic.