With the decreasing number of positive COVID-19 cases, more employees are now returning to on-site work and new COVID-19 testing protocols are in place.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (“IATF”) provided guidelines for COVID-19 testing requirements for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated employees through its Resolutions No. 148-B and 149. Also, the National COVID-19 Immunization Program opened to the general public nationwide. In order to support the full vaccination of the Philippine population, the IATF declared that upon sufficient proof of a confirmed vaccination schedule, all workers to be vaccinated during work hours shall not be considered as absent during that period.
In areas where there are sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines as determined by the National Vaccines Operation Center, all establishments and employers in the public and private sector shall require their eligible employees, who are tasked to do on-site work, to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Eligible employees who remain to be unvaccinated may not be terminated solely by reason thereof. However, they shall be required to undergo RT-PCR tests regularly, at their own expense, for purposes of on-site work; provided that antigen tests may be resorted to when RT-PCR capacity is insufficient or not immediately available.
All partially vaccinated employees, or those who have only received their first dose in the public and private sector tasked to do on-site work, need not undergo regular RT-PCR tests at their own expense, as long as their second dose is not yet due pursuant to the interval prescribed for the brand of vaccine received as their first dose.
According to the Department of Health, the interval of doses varies per vaccine. Vaccines which have already been issued an Emergency Use Authorization by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration have the following dosage and frequency:
Regular RT-PCR or antigen tests are still required for partially vaccinated employees when all the on-site employees/workers of an establishment are required to undergo such tests under the Alert Level System Guidelines. Under the IATF Guidelines on the Nationwide Implementation of Alert Level System for COVID-19 Response, as of February 27, 2022, full vaccination of on-site employees is required under all Alert Levels except Alert Level 1.
As for public transportation services in the road, rail, maritime, and aviation sectors, full vaccination of their eligible workers is a condition for continuing their operations.
The frequency of regular RT-PCR tests for purposes of on-site work shall be determined by the employer, but it should be at least once every two weeks.
Only the presentation of a medical clearance issued by the Municipal Health Office, City Health Office, and/or Provincial Health Office, or a birth certificate, as the case may be, shall serve as sufficient and valid proof of ineligibility for vaccination.
For further information, please contact:
Ronald Mark C. Lleno, Partner, SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan