The testing void
Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The Department of Labor and Employment has issued a labor advisory that officially passes the mass testing buck to the private sector as it places the burden of shouldering the costs of COVID-19 preventive and control measures, including testing, disinfection facilities and personal protective equipment.
Labor Advisory No. 18 was issued on Monday, the first day most businesses in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine were allowed to resume operations.
The Department of Health and DOLE had earlier said employees were not required to undergo COVID-19 testing before returning to their workplace. But if tests are found to be necessary, Malacañang said that government would not shoulder the costs of mass testing for employees because of a lack of resources, particularly test kits and accredited testing laboratories.
However, employers and local government units may implement mass testing if they have the capacity to do so, it said.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said paying for the cost of testing should be part of the private sector’s new normal.
These pronouncements by government agencies and heads have naturally put business groups on edge, worrying about the impact of the policy on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that had already been struggling to stay afloat throughout the lockdowns and beyond. The possibility of smaller companies opting not to open if the costs of doing business in the so-called “new normal” – such as temporary housing, shuttle services, and testing – are too high, is very real.
Government had two months during the quarantines and lockdown to prepare for the “new normal” but it is now becoming clear that all it seems to have done is to prepare to pass the buck to the private sector. With this development, our government that failed to conduct the mass testing during the lockdown and quarantine periods that would’ve made the reopening process safer for Filipinos has effectively relinquished its duty of keeping its population safe from COVID-19.
Hopefully the private sector and the business community can step up to fill this massive void left by the government.*