Majority of jobs vital to economy are high-risk COVID-19 spreaders: UP study

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2020 04:29 PM

Bikers traverse Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on May 21, 2020 amid the modified enhanced community quarantine. Utilization of bikes are increasing with the lack of mass transportation available for permitted workers under community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Majority of "highly important" jobs that will sustain the Philippine economy in the next 18 months have a high risk of spreading COVID-19, a University of the Philippines study showed Friday.

The government last week eased lockdown measures after 2 months of restrictions that shuttered most businesses and led to the first economic contraction in 22 years.

Of 987 jobs in the country, 816 or 82 percent are essential in sustaining the economy, data from the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team showed. 

Sixty-five percent of these have a high chance of spreading the virus as they "require close or regular interaction with people," the study said. Among these are health workers (13.8 percent) and those in the food, agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors (51.2 percent).

"These sectors are highly interdependent with others, and effects on one sector can have long-lasting effects on another," it said.

"Outside of healthcare workers, we need to carefully reconsider the costs and benefits of reactivating activities related to this group, and ensure that strict public health measures are followed."

Of 987 jobs in the country, 816 or 82 percent are essential in sustaining the economy, data from the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team. Handout

Workers in the education and recreation sectors (16.4 percent) also have a high-risk of spreading the disease but are "relatively less interdependent on others," the study showed.

"For this sector, a clear intervention would be to explore other modes of job delivery to minimize social interaction, without necessarily completely discontinuing operations, such as through continued work from home and other alternative working arrangements," the study said.

Among low-risk spreaders are those in the financial, banking and BPO companies (17.7 percent) and those in the real estate and funeral services (0.9 percent).

WORK FROM HOME

Increasing the supply of personal protective equipment, practicing good hygiene, and switching to work from home arrangements can lessen jobs at moderate to high risk of contracting the disease by at least 21 percent, according to the study.

Only 100 jobs, however, can be done by working at home, it said.

Some 22.7 million workers may return to work in order to produce at least 60 percent of the country's gross regional domestic product, according to the study.

These workers belong to agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, electricity, water supply, waste management, wholesale and retail trade, vehicle repair, transportation and storage, information and communication, finance and insurance, real estate, public administration and defense, compulsory social security, and health and social work activities. 

The group recommended that companies only reopen if its workplace was located in an area with no COVID-19 cases in the past 2 weeks, was in compliance with community quarantine level, and was ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness.

It also provided another tool developed by the UP Los Baños Biomathematics Team, which calculates specific job risk profiles and specify workplace crowd density, and level of protection.

Companies may use this flowchart in deciding to reopen their business during the COVID-19 pandemic. UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team

Metro Manila, Calabarzon, and Central Visayas were hardest-hit in terms of prevalence of the disease, the study said. The three were under strict lockdown until May 15, while the cities of Cebu and Mandaue remaining under an enhanced community quarantine.