MANILA - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued new workplace rules to guard against COVID-19 while reopening the economy.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's Teleradyo Saturday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said employers should now provide individual smoking booths and adopt staggered meal schedules to minimize the transmission of the novel coronavirus in workplaces.
"This will allow us to reopen the economy safely while we are pursuing all these programs, such as aggressive contact tracing, testing and treatment of COVID-19 cases," he said.
The supplemental health guidelines issued Friday urged large- and medium-sized private companies to offer shuttle services and mandatory establishment of temporary isolation facilities for symptomatic employees.
Workers are now also mandated to wear face shields and masks when interacting with colleagues and customers.
Guidelines state that dining in canteens may be allowed, provided employees strictly distance themselves at least a meter apart. Workers are also prohibited from talking with each other.
Designated smoking areas in workplaces shall be provided with individual “booths." Businesses shall require workers to strictly observe physical distancing and other applicable health protocols, such as no talking inside designated smoking areas, the DTI said.
The guidelines also require reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for symptomatic employees and their close contacts.
Meanwhile, RT-PCR or antibody-based tests are not recommended nor required for asymptomatic employees returning to work.
"We understand the added burden for our employers and workers, but we request for everyone’s full cooperation as we stress the need to lower the transmission in the workplace,” Lopez said in a separate statement.
The trade chief said it was crucial to reboot the economy, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered about a quarter of the country's micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
About 26 percent of 1.5 million MSMEs were "partially or temporarily closed" by the pandemic, 52 percent are partially operating and 22 percent are fully running, he had said.
As of Saturday, the Philippines has the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia, with nearly 158,000 confirmed cases, including 2,600 fatalities.