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For vaccine-or-test rules for workers, antigen tests are more viable.

If testing for Covid-19 is essential for unvaccinated workers returning to work, the chair of the House Committee on Labor and Employment indicated on Thursday that antigen testing is a better alternative than reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

1-PACMAN Rep. Enrico Pineda said RT-PCR testing, which is needed under the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Resolutions 148-B and 149, is exceedingly expensive, costing roughly PHP2,500 per test every two weeks.

On-site workers must be completely vaccinated, according to IATF-EID Resolution 148-B, which was issued on November 11.

On-site personnel who are still unvaccinated should not be fired, but they must take RT-PCR tests “on a frequent basis at their own expense,” according to the resolution.

Meanwhile, according to IATF Resolution 149, all partially vaccinated employees in the public and private sectors who are required to perform onsite work do not need to undergo a regular RT-PCR test at their own expense as long as their second dose is not yet due according to the interval prescribed for the brand of vaccine received as the first dose.

If RT-PCR testing is required for unvaccinated workers to return to work, Pineda believes the cost should be borne by the government, not the worker or the company.

“We can’t put that weight on the employees,” Pineda added, “because they can end up with nothing left over at the end of the month.”

Antigen testing, he claims, is less expensive, faster, and more effective, costing roughly PHP250.00.

“The findings of RT-PCR testing could take up to three days to arrive. Is it possible for the employee to report to work before the results are known? Antigen tests can be completed in under 20 minutes. We use it in Congress, where we all get tested once a week. “If it’s good enough for us, it should probably be good enough for everyone else,” he explained.

He believes that asking someone to be vaccinated merely so they can “earn a living” is unethical.

“Being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is no guarantee.” Nobody is truly safe, whether or not they have been vaccinated. The main benefit of vaccination is that they are less likely to become infected at a severe or critical level “he stated

Another issue, he noted, is the vaccine’s availability and distribution.

“Some employees want to be vaccinated but can’t find a time that works for them. So, how about them? They are unable to return to work for no fault of their own,” he explained.

The House Committee on Labor and Employment has decided to request that the IATF suspend Resolutions 148-B and 149 forthwith.

“During our next Committee meeting on December 7, 2021, we will send a letter to the IATF requesting that they not execute the Resolutions awaiting additional deliberation. First and foremost, we must consider the impact of such measures on our workforce.” Pineda explained.

Employers must require their eligible workers who are charged with “on-site work” to get vaccinated, according to the Department of Labor and Employment, but they may not fire other employees who refuse to acquire the vaccine.

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