A total of 1,845 employees of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) have undergone rapid and swab tests, of which 62 were confirmed with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Of the 62 cases, 34 have already recovered while 28 are still active cases undergoing quarantine and constantly monitored by BOC’s medical division, according to assistant commissioner and spokesperson Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla.
Maronilla’s statement came after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Employees Association (BOCEA) in a letter to Health secretary Francisco Duque III dated June 25 said the situation at the bureau “is very alarming.”
BOCEA national president Rommel Francisco said “employees are anxious and feeling afraid of the increasing number of BOC employees being infected of the virus due to lack of proper action to control or minimize the spread of the virus in the workplace.”
He said BOCEA received information that two Philippine Coast Guard personnel assigned at the designated examination area at Port of Manila tested positive for COVID-19.
Francisco said he received a copy of Duque’s letter dated June 25 to Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero and BOC deputy commissioner for Internal Administration Group Donato San Juan regarding his (Duque’s) scheduled visit to BOC to conduct technical assistance in terms of infection prevention and control, mental health and psychosocial support, as well as surveillance and contact tracing.
Francisco has asked Duque to be apprised of the results of his meeting with Guerrero and Donato.
Maronilla told reporters in a Viber group that the bureau’s Intelligence Group (IG) has been doing contact tracing and those identified to have had contact with positive cases are placed under 14 days quarantine and subjected to testing in coordination with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
He added that BOC since May has done extensive testing for all its employees based on protocols by the Department of Health (DOH). Employees with close contact to positive cases were tested by real time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, also known as swab test, while those with secondary exposure underwent rapid testing.
Maronilla earlier said PRC has allocated BOC with slots for free regular swab testing of its employees. DOH also provides rapid testing for BOC employees and those that exhibit symptoms are prioritized for testing.
BOC said it had one casualty since the start of the pandemic and the person was known to have an existing lung condition lung condition even before the outbreak.
Aside from testing for cases, Maronilla said BOC also exercises all precautionary measures such as wearing of face masks and gloves, as well as the observance of physical distancing rules.
“We regularly disinfect our offices and we implement flexible working arrangements for our frontliners such as skeletal workforce schedules and work from home options,” Maronilla added.
As a safety measure, all BOC transactions have been online since the start of the pandemic to avoid physical contact with stakeholders. Manual transactions within BOC premises were discouraged to ensure the safety of both stakeholders and Customs employees.
“We are aware of how critical our role is in this current pandemic and so, while we praise and thank our frontliners for their dedicated and untiring service despite the daily risks, we also would like to assure the public that the Bureau of Customs’ highest priority is the health and safety of our own employees and that of our stakeholders. Protocols are in place and are strictly followed,” Maronilla said.