UCA News

Philippines

Workers 'exposed' as Philippines relaxes Covid-19 rules

Labor groups criticize lack of mass testing as many people are allowed to return to work

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Workers 'exposed' as Philippines relaxes Covid-19 rules

Medical workers prepare to take swabs from residents during mass testing for Covid-19 at a park in Manila’s Quezon City. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)

Share this article :
The Philippine government has come under fire from labor groups for allowing people to return to work without implementing mass testing for Covid-19, saying it puts millions at risk of catching the deadly virus.

Officials say the government still only has a limited coronavirus testing capacity, which means tests can only be carried out on high-risk patients.

The admission came as the government eased quarantine restrictions on May 18, allowing many people to return to work.

Government-funded test kits are as yet unavailable to asymptomatic people [those not showing Covid-19 symptoms] because authorities still “do not have the capacity” for mass testing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on May 18.

“In an ideal world, everyone must be tested. But the public should know, firstly, mass testing is difficult. We only have 30 testing centers. We want to increase the number to 90,” Roque said.

Labor groups criticized the admission as being “anti-labor” after some private companies resumed operating on May 18.

The easing of quarantine protocols in Metro Manila and nearby provinces allows 50 percent of the workforce to resume working. The lack of testing, however, puts workers at risk, the labor groups said.

Before companies reopened, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno had demanded mass testing for workers for safer workplaces.

“Without mass testing, workers may be exposed in their workplaces and traveling to and from work. Physical distancing, sanitizers and face masks are not enough,” the group’s secretary-general Jerome Adonis said.

The government cannot risk workers’ lives in favor of business, he said.

“We realize the decision [to reopen business establishments] was a concession to business. But the real mover of the economy is human labor. Workers’ health cannot be compromised,” he added.

Human rights group Karapatan also issued a statement calling for a “test, test, test” policy rather than an “arrest, arrest, arrest” one from authorities who have been strict with quarantine violators.

 “Continuing the punitive policy of arresting alleged quarantine violators, combined with a lack of needed public health measures — such as mass testing — is a deadly disaster in the making,” Karapatan said.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."