COVID-19 novel coronavirus
A government worker disinfects a high school, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila. AFP/Maria TAN

Solon urges Metro Manila-wide lockdown but DOH says not time yet for drastic measure.

IN a bid to prevent the spread of corona disease or COVID-19, some solons are proposing locking down Metro Manila and adopting a temporary work from home scheme.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said lockdown of the National Capital Region (NCR) should be considered to stop the transmission of COVID-19.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III however said it’s too early to declare a lockdown in the NCR.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Duque said they are still watching if there will be a sustained community transmission of the COVID-19 which would call for a lockdown or community quarantine.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas is strongly encouraging the implementation of Telecommuting Act or the work from home program.

The Department of Health (DOH) has reported 10 cases of COVID, all in Metro Manila. The second case, a Chinese national, has already died.  The DOH likewise confirmed local transmission.

Salceda is proposing suspension of classes nationwide and work stoppage for mass transmission.

“During epidemics, everyone is a suspect, thus the need for isolation. First classes should be suspended nationwide to slow down the virus and mitigate any potential mass transmission. Second in NCR, there should be work stoppage for a week,” Salceda said.

“A lockdown of NCR should not be off the table if needed to slow down transmission of COVID-19.  The costs of mass community transmission far outweigh the economic losses arising from preemptive actions. Zero casualty doctrine should extend to all emergencies, especially health emergencies,” he added.

During the lockdown, Salceda proposes no bus trips, no domestic flights, stop operation of the highways (both South Luzon Expressway and North Luzon Expressway), but the delivery of food, medicines and health services is exempted.

Salceda said this could be considered as “grand staycation.”

For his part, Vargas said the private companies should consider implementing the alternative workplaces for their employees with the use of telecommunications  and computer technologies.

While the original purpose of the law was to address the traffic woes in Metro Manila, it can find application now considering the country’s current health concerns.

“Now that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is on the rise, telecommuting is a solution. This will prevent the spread of the disease whether in the workplace or while in transit. Employees are more secure when they are at home, without compromising their productivity and their health,” Vargas said.

He added that telecommuting will also help health authorities contain the virus, conduct easier contact tracing, and avoid much-feared community transmission.

Under the telecommuting program, employers in the private sector may offer the option of telecommuting on a voluntary basis, or as a result of collective bargaining under terms and conditions which shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law, and shall include compensable work hours, minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, entitlement to leave benefits, social welfare benefits, and security of tenure.

Employees who will take advantage of the program shall have the same or equivalent workload and performance standards of those of comparable workers on the employer’s premises.