MANILA – A leader of the House of Representatives on Friday backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s recommendation for Congress to suspend work as part of the national campaign to combat the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Deputy Speaker Michael Romero made the statement after recent confirmation that a House employee has been found positive for Covid-19.
Secretary-General Jose Luis Montales announced to House members and staff that an employee of the chamber’s printing department is currently confined in an undisclosed hospital due to coronavirus infection.
Romero said a special session to tackle the supplemental budget to help combat Covid-19, as well as other key health measures, may not be advisable in the next two weeks because several senators have volunteered to undergo the 14-day self-quarantine protocol.
“I suggest the majority of us, our staff and administrative personnel should be allowed to observe the 14-day self-quarantine starting March 15 to prepare ourselves for the special session,” Romero said.
“A skeletal workforce can be tapped to hold forth and address urgent legislative work while others can be assigned to work from home,” he added.
Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo, meanwhile, urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to immediately issue guidelines for private-sector workers to be affected by the government-imposed community quarantine.
“Our employees in the private sector are anxious about what will happen to them in case there are at least two coronavirus disease or Covid-19 cases in their barangay and their entire community is placed on lockdown. They will be restricted to their homes and will not be allowed to go to work,” she said.
Castelo said those particularly concerned are minimum wage workers who are mostly paid daily.
“They don’t receive pay if they don’t work. What will happen to them in the event their community is quarantined?” she said.
She urged the government and the private sector to join hands in helping these workers.
“Their employers could pay their daily wage for a certain number of days during the lockdown, while the government, through the DOLE and other agencies, could take care of the rest to tide the employees over this difficult time,” Castelo said.
She said aside from DOLE, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units have funds to assist distressed workers.
“We have to work as one in combatting this coronavirus scourge and in helping our affected people,” she said.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles clarified that the term community quarantine is the more appropriate term to describe the government’s latest move to contain the spread of the Covid-19.
Community quarantine refers to restricting movements in an area that might have been exposed to infection without necessarily saying the residents there are sick.
President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized the community quarantine of Metro Manila as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19, as well as social distancing measures for the next 30 days to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
This came after authorities raised Code Red (Sub-level 2) as the number of Covid-19 cases in the country rose to 52 with five deaths as of Thursday. (PNA)