There is no need to test asymptomatic workers for the novel coronavirus, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Friday, as authorities seek to boost the economy that fell into recession owing to the pandemic.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said employers must instead monitor the health condition of their workers daily and report potential COVID-19 infections.
"There is no need to test... for asymptomatic (workers) -- not even doing a rapid test nor a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test," Lopez told ANC.
"But for symptomatic already (and with) disclosure that there is some exposure already, you will be required to have PCR test," he added.
The PCR test screens nasal swab samples and is widely considered as the gold standard in coronavirus screening due to accurate results. In contrast, several experts have warned against the use of rapid tests that detect the presence of antibodies in swab samples, saying these could yield false negative results up to half of the time.
The DTI will also require companies to train workers on health protocols and set up committees that would check compliance, said Lopez.
The department is discouraging workers from socializing with each other in canteens, smoking areas and shuttle services, which are potential sites for virus transmission, he said.
Workers are urged to eat packed lunches at their own workstations, which should be separated by acrylic barriers, the secretary said.
"What we’re trying to do is we are issuing a new set of protocols for business establishments to make it stricter and hopefully avoid further spread after we reopen the economy," said Lopez.
Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces are under the second strictest lockdown level until Aug. 19 to give health workers a "breathing space" and contain COVID-19 cases that have topped 120,000.
The Philippine economy plunged into recession, the first time in nearly 30 years, following one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world to curb the spread of COVID-19.