WORKERS unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) who fail to show a negative RT-PCR test result will no longer be allowed entry to their workplaces starting Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, according to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

IATF chief implementer for the Visayas Melquiades Feliciano relayed this information to Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the IATF Emergency Operations Center in Cebu City, on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

The national IATF had required unvaccinated employees to provide a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test result before they would be permitted to work on-site starting Dec. 1.

“To give ample time for unvaccinated employees to secure a negative RT-PCR result, the mandatory submission of this requirement will be enforced effective Dec. 4, 2021. To simplify this directive, unvaccinated employees who will fail to submit a negative RT-PCR result shall not be allowed to report to work starting Dec. 4,” said the IATF memo Feliciano relayed to Garganera.

“Moreover, if you remain unvaccinated, you will henceforth be required to submit a negative RT-PCR result every two weeks,” he said. “If you fail to meet this requirement, you will not be allowed again to report for work.”

Feliciano said partially vaccinated employees who missed the schedule for the second dose are also required to submit a negative RT-PCR test result every two weeks until they get fully vaccinated.

The national IATF protocol states that partially vaccinated on-site employees may report for work without a negative RT-PCR test result if they can present the schedule of their second dose and this dose is not yet due.

“During your absence because of your failure to submit proof of vaccination and/or a negative RT-PCR result, such absences will be automatically charged to your remaining sick leave credits,” the IATF memo said.

“In the event that sick leaves are no longer available, the company may apply your available vacation leaves. In case neither SL (sick leave) nor VL (vacation leave) is available, the no-work no-pay rule shall apply,” Feliciano added.

IATF Resolution 148-B says antigen tests may be resorted to when RT-PCR capacity is insufficient or not available.

Employees shoulder the costs of the Covid-19 tests. In Metro Cebu, the prices for these tests range from P900 to P3,200.

Feliciano’s announcement came on the last day of the first round of the three-day Bayanihan, Bakunahan: National Covid-19 Vaccination Days. A second round is set in mid-December.

In Mandaue City, Cebu, many unvaccinated employees rushed to vaccination sites Wednesday, as Proclamation 1253 says workers vaccinated during the three-day drive would not be marked absent from work, if they presented proof of vaccination to their employers.

“This is a good sign and a significant step towards attaining herd immunity and full vaccination,” said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Yu.

He said two to five percent of employees of MCCI-member companies were still unvaccinated.

Yu said MCCI has 500 member companies with an estimated workforce of 500,000.

He said Cebu’s business community has taken an active role in the vaccination of its employees through Project Balik Buhay (PBB), and partnerships with local government units (LGUs) and other nongovernment organizations.

The Mandaue City Government has vaccinated more than 80 percent of its eligible population.

“At this rate, the companies in Mandaue City, as well as those in other LGUs within the province, have attained high vaccination rates. Even with this new regulation starting Dec. 1, the impact in terms of disruptions in the operations will be negligible, and the companies are adjusting well,” he said.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Felix Taguiam said the IATF resolution requiring the vaccination of on-site workers brings relief to businesses that couldn’t decide whether to require vaccination or not.

“As far as the CCCI is concerned, the majority of employees are jabbed through the PBB or through the LGUs, so it may only leave a small percentage unvaccinated. We hope with this new order coming from all the way up, it will encourage the remaining (employees) to do so. This is for the benefit of all,” Taguiam said. (JOB, TPM / SUNSTAR PHILIPPINES)