Updated 1.21.2022: Embedded a copy of DO 232 s. 2022 by DOLE stipulating the guidelines and procedures when availing P5,000.00 cash aid for workers affected by the hoisting of Alert level 3 due to Omicron surge.
Updated 1.18.2022: Added DOLE Advisory 01 s. 2022 “encouraging” employers to provide paid quarantine leaves.
Updated 1.15.2022: Included the new or updated isolation and quarantine guidelines for COVID-19 positive and close contact. released by DOH (Department of Health) on Jan. 12, 2022.
Updated 1.8.2022: Embedded the new home quarantine guidelines released by DOH (Department of Health) for mild and moderate cases amid the Omicron surge in the Philippines.
Updated 1.6.2022: Embedded the reminder released by DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), DTI (Department of Trade), and DOH (Department of Health) for employers amid the Omicron surge in the Philippines.
Update 1.5.2022: Embedded a few decks from Dr/Fr. Nic Austriacos’ (OCTA Fellow) presentation about the Omicron variant. This is from the GoNegosyo town hall held this morning.
Slowing down the surge of Omicron in the workplace is both cultural and scientific.
The minimum health standards like wearing a face mask, maintaining a safe distance, frequent hand washing, and staying at home when symptoms associated with the coronavirus are present, are science-based. Compliance, on the other hand, is cultural.
While there is a surge of fresh COVID-19 cases in the world for the past month, the Philippines is enjoying a steady decline of SARS COV-2 cases. Well, not anymore. Party pooper Omicron succeeded in stopping the fun in Metro Manila and Calabarzon area with the doubling growth rate of fresh cases in the last few days.
Read: Ohh no! Omicron caught me
As a consequence, the national capital region reverted to a much stricter classification (alert level 3) beginning January 3, 2022. Additionally, the mayors of NCR agreed to prevent the unvaccinated from using public transportation for unessential trips and prevent ingress to malls and restaurants. Though it is unsure yet, how the unvaxxed employees of industries allowed to operate will be treated.
What Distinguishes Omicron from Delta and the other COVID-19 variants
According to this site, the top 5 symptoms of this new variant are:
- Runny nose.
- Fatigue (either mild or severe).
- Sore throat.
“Things like fever, cough, and loss of smell are now in the minority of symptoms we are seeing, most people don’t have classic symptoms,” according to Dr. Tim Spector, as quoted by The Guardian when it reported that Londoners with cold symptoms are more likely to have Covid. Additionally, NBC also reported Omicron’s symptoms from other research which jibed with other studies.
For more info about the Omicron variant, you may visit CDC and WHO.
How to prevent the spread of Omicron in the workplace
The 1st working day of 2022 happened to be both the 1st day of a stricter quarantine rule, and at the height of the new surge. So HR professionals were greeted with employees reporting for work with common cold symptoms. Historically, because it’s a colder season in this part of the world plus the people are fatigued from trips, social gatherings, chores associated with the holidays, infection with influenza, and common cold is normal in this time of the year.
To deal with employees reporting for work with common cold symptoms, the HR professionals I have spoken with made the following course of action. The most appropriate, if not the best, for the situation at hand.
- They facilitated antigen tests for all employees (EEs), at the cost of the employer.
- For EEs who turned out to be positive, HR coordinated with the EEs BHERT (Barangay Health Emergency Response Team) for their care.
- For EEs who turned out negative but with common cold symptoms, or turned out positive but without symptoms, they were scheduled for an RTPCR test. At the employer’s expense or thru the company’s HMO provider.
- EEs who will yield a positive result from #3 will also be coordinated with BHERT.
- All employees will be sent home. WFH was arranged for at least 1 week if employee health allows it, and/or the job of the employee can be done remotely. Otherwise, sick leave or service incentive leave applies.
- After one week, EEs with negative test results and did not develop any symptoms can report back to onsite work subject to Alert Level 3 guidelines and DOH protocols.
- EEs who are positive can continue the alternate working arrangements or will be on SL or SIL or SSS sickness benefit until they are cleared.
Above is on top of the company’s compliance with the usual Occupational Safety and Health guidelines and IATF/ DOH / DOLE protocols, like empowering or assigning safety officers and regular disinfection of the workplace.
How is your company preventing the surge in your workplace, care to share your practice?