TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said companies must pay for the testing of their employees for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which he said will be included in new business health protocols.

Hindi po sagot ng gobyerno subalit ‘yun na rin po ang magiging practice ng mga kumpanya na gusto masigurado,” he said in a television interview on Tuesday.

(The government will not shoulder the testing cost, but that will become the practice of companies that want to be certain).

He said companies can ask employees to fill out health declaration forms noting travel and contact history, adding that those who have possible COVID-19 symptoms or who have had contact with patients can be prioritized for the PCR test.

The PCR or polymerase chain reaction test checks for the presence of the virus in individuals, unlike rapid tests that check for the presence of antibodies.

Ine-encourage po ‘yung PCR test, pero ‘yun po ay limitado ang gamit sa ngayondu’n lang sa may symptoms o kaya PUIs at PUMs,” Mr. Lopez said.

(We encourage using the PCR test but its use is limited to those who have symptoms or are persons under investigation or monitoring).

Mr. Lopez over the weekend said the private sector can set up testing facilities, with the guidance of the Health department.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey A. Concepcion had launched Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits), a private sector-led project to increase COVID-19 testing.

Mr. Lopez said in the same interview on Tuesday that while some mall operations are now allowed in moderate or low-risk areas under the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ), senior citizens and young people under 20 may be given a window or time period during the day when they will be allowed to leave their homes. Those groups are not allowed to leave their homes under current GCQ guidelines.

He said barber shops and salons are allowed to operate under the GCQ, with “very strict health standards.”

He added that there will be guidelines on minimum health protocols, including the wearing of masks and the use of sanitation stations. — Jenina P. Ibañez