Govt allowed to further reduce on-site staff amid possible escalation of alert level

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — Government agencies may reduce their on-site staff if COVID-19 infections in the offices become unmanageable, according to an order from Malacañang.

Memorandum Circular No. 94 says reduction of on-site staff, as well as temporary closure of premises, "shall be regarded as extreme measures, reserved for situations where the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace has become overwhelming."

The Palace released the order after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in an interview Saturday that the National Capital Region would likely be placed under Alert Level 4 due to the surge in cases.

Metro Manila, along with several other areas in the country, are under Alert Level 3 until Jan. 15. This alert level requires government agencies, offices, and instrumentalities to remain fully operational and employ 60% on-site capacity.

According to the directive, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Jan. 7, any agency considering to reduce its staff or temporarily shut its offices shall first secure clearance from the "department exercising control or supervision over them — or to which they are attached."

Those not under the control of or attached to any department shall submit their request for clearance to the Office of the President.

Agencies implementing the setup shall ensure "manned hotlines, on-site or off-site, to respond to the immediate concerns of their respective stakeholders."

The order noted workforce reduction and temporary closure cannot be conducted if only for disinfection purposes.

Earlier, infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante backed calls to raise Alert Level 4 in areas with ballooning COVID-19 cases.

READ: Expert: Raise alert level status in areas high-risk for COVID-19