MANILA — Workers are exempted from a ban on unvaccinated people using public transport in Metro Manila where omicron is fueling a record spike in COVID-19 cases, the labor department said on Tuesday.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that workers render “essential services”, without which businesses could not operate.
“They are exempted from the ‘no vaxx, no ride’ policy. Very clear ‘yan,” Bello said of workers.
“‘Pag inihinto mo ang mga ‘yan, paano gagalaw ang ating mga negosyo. ‘Pag walang negosyo, walang ekonomiya,” he said in a press briefing.
(That is very clear. If you stop them, how can our businesses move? If there are no businesses, there is no economy.)
The ‘no jab, no ride’ rule took effect on Monday, days after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to arrest people not vaccinated against COVID-19 who refused to stay at home.
Passengers will have to show proof of vaccination before boarding public buses, jeepneys, trains, boats or planes in Metro Manila where infections are soaring, causing widespread disruption for businesses and straining hospitals.
Exceptions will be made for unvaccinated people who have official permission to travel to buy food, seek medical treatment or get jabbed, authorities earlier said.
Only around half the Philippine population are fully vaccinated, though the rate in the capital is much higher.
Metro Manila was upgraded to COVID-19 Alert 3 on Jan. 3 until the end of the month to curb infections.
The trade department initially estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 workers would be affected by the restrictions, said Bello.
But he said 11,500 workers lost their jobs because they were retrenched or their company closed operations.
Some 20,000 other workers are earning less because of shortened work hours or arrangements to lessen working days, Bello added.
– With a report from Agence France-Presse