THIS Covid-19 disruption will hit the Filipino working class the most. And we don’t mean the better employed, the ones whose welfare benefits are well in place. We mean those who need the mobility to earn, to bring home what meager pay the day brings into the table of a waiting family. We mean the ones with thin wages, who wrestle with the daily puzzle of fitting every basic need in cramped spaces. They are the ones you see counting every centavo as though an entire life depended on a handful. They can’t be sick; they can’t call in sick. They will have to feign health because they can’t afford a skip in their timecards.
On the occasion of more public health measures should the virus continue to spread—from area lockdowns to work suspension to self-quarantine—these workers will bear the brunt the most.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or Philhealth announced it will cover the cost of the novel coronavirus test for individuals seeking treatment, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The health insurance agency’s coverage also include quarantine and isolation cost.
“The last thing we want is for our citizens to worry about medical costs and expenses,” said Nograles. “Their only concern should be their well-being and the well-being of their families.”
The Philhealth is a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Government claims rapid diagnostic test kits are on their way, and we hope the field validation procedures will be quicker.
While government ensures that Philhealth support, it may also address the possibility that infected breadwinners will be leaving family members with scarce options. With the scale of need in the time of an epidemic, aid work will go beyond routine.
In early part of February, the Department of the Interior and Local Government had ordered local governments to create their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs). Village chiefs will appoint the members: executive officer, barangay tanod, two barangay health workers, one of them either a nurse or midwife. There should be one BHERT per 5,000 in population.
The BHERT, however, will mostly concern itself with health matters. Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development had at this time merely included Covid-19 education in its Pantawid Pamilya program seminars in the community. It had not talked of any measures to support families should a Covid-19 outbreak happen.
On the ground, the task largely rests on the local chief executives. We hope to hear concrete plans soon, in the wake of a burgeoning number of infected cases. The less privileged sector needs all the contingencies government could muster.