As COVID-19 positive cases increase: ECOP urges extensive profiling for targeted interventions

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) is recommending the extensive use of data analytics to break down the demographic profile of positive cases for targeted interventions.

Reacting to news on possible reversion of Metro Manila to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the largest Philippine employer organization recognizes that the growing number of COVID-19 cases is a direct result of the increased capacity to test both by private sector and government. The aggregate number may continue to rise as more tests are conducted.

ECOP is gravely concerned that going back to ECQ will make it all the more difficult for the economy to bounce back. Under this scheme, only businesses offering selected essential services will be allowed to operate.

Add to this is the huge amount of resources needed to feed these families that will be locked down in their homes. Most of these family members are also possibly the ones out on the streets seeking livelihood opportunities or reporting for work with great difficulty due to transport shortage and cumbersome border checkpoints.

“It will be an injustice to blame the people for going out to work,” said Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., President of ECOP. “By and large the people are really cooperating but they are desperately looking for livelihood sources for survival. These are the ones coming out from the quarantine. So government needs to respond based on data from improved contact tracing. While I understand that geographic-based indicators are now available already, we still need to get the other factors such as nature of work and workplace, gender and health condition. Then the intervention can be more specific, well targeted, and localized quarantine measures may be put in place.”

In addition, Ortiz-Luis Jr. reiterated the importance of setting up medically safe quarantine facilities in strategic places in each city and municipality to immediately isolate symptomatic and positive cases. This will allow the rest of the family members to “go on with their lives”.

Ortiz-Luis agrees with proposals for mass testing but these should not be mandated on all employers, particularly the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), that were heavily affected by the crisis, Ortiz-Luis Jr. explained. ECOP has expressed in a separate statement the concern on the Department of Health (DOH)’s call urging business owners to conduct random COVID-19 testing for its employees through rapid tests every two weeks.

“Business owners are not government or health insurance companies,” it said. “Government, which has the resources and logistics at its disposal, must be able to cover, if not subsidize the people’s needs in fighting this virus.”

A survey by the Department of Trade and Industry in April showed that 52.66% of MSMEs have shut down, 12.55% have limited operations, and 34.79% managed to continue their operations. The employment scenario looks grim as indicated by the establishment reports received by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

As of June, 100,000 workers were laid off from January to June, according to DOLE. This figure is a fraction of the 4.9 million who lost their jobs in April, out of the 7.3 million unemployed that month as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

“To require business owners to conduct at their own cost random COVID-19 rapid test for their employees and repeat it every two weeks will be a heavy additional financial burden and drive those still operating to eventual closure,” Ortiz-Luis Jr. pointed out.

He however acknowledged that there are large companies which have been testing their employees through antibody rapid test kits (RTKs) as part of their health protocols.

“ECOP supports these voluntary initiatives by companies that can afford, as they demonstrate good corporate social responsibility,” he added.

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