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Bus driver quarantined at garage, not given swab test


Despite being a suspected coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case, a bus driver of Fermina Express was isolated at a garage filled with broken-down buses and was not given a swab test by his employer.

In Mark Salazar’s report on “24 Oras,” Estanislao Oxales said that they were ordered to shuttle medical frontliners when the lockdown was implemented.

“Mula po nung pag-lockdown, kami po ay pinadala para mag shuttle, mag hatid-sundo ng mga health worker katulad ng nurse at iba pa,” Oxales said.

Even back then, Oxales said he had doubts over the health protocols of their company for drivers and conductors.

“Mula March 19 hanggang May 1, umuwi na po kami ng garahe at nanatili po kami sa loob ng garahe at wala pong pag susuri sa amin kahit rapid test man lang… Lahat kami hinalo doon sa loob ng garahe na may mga tao doon. Dapat ho diba, titiis muna kami,” he said.

Oxales later showed symptoms of the virus.

“Doon na ako inuubo, sinisipon, at nanghihina. Inabot pa po ako ng July 10, inabot pa po ako ng July 10, kasi hinintay ko pa po ‘yung sahod… Hanggang nilalagnat na po ako ng gabi na ‘yun,” he said.

“At nag desisyon na po sila na i-isolate po ako dito sa isang lugar na ako lang at dahil lahat ng sintomas ay nasa akin sa COVID-19,” he added.

Though he asked for a swab test from his employer, they did not have him tested.

This is a violation of the joint order of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry on the COVID-19 response of workplaces.

“‘Yun pong rapid test is not advisable because whether you turn out positive or negative, and confirmatory test din natin ay ‘yung swab testing. And then ‘yan po ay sagot po ‘yan ng ating employer,” DOLE assistant secretary Nikki Tutay said.

“Maari itong i-charge sa ating PhilHealth na dapat naman po ay mandatory. Nag re-remit naman po ‘yung mga employer natin,” she added.

Oxales said that he was also promised that Fermina Express OIC John Gopes will pay for his food necessities while in quarantine.

“Kahit isang kilong bigas wala hong naibibigay sa akin ang kumpanya. ‘Yun ho ang pangako nila sa akin. At pag dala po nila sa akin dito ng July 10, hirap na hirap na po ako huminga ng panahoon na iyon. As in wala na po akong maisip at tinawag ko na po sa aking pamilya sa Bataan,” he said.

He said that he left quarantine to get a check-up in a clinic where the doctor advised him to take a swab test.

“Tumatawag po sila sa akin araw-araw- hindi naman po araw-araw. Inaano lang po nila, kuya papa-check-up ka namin. Hintay ako ng hintay hanggang July 15,” Oxales said.

“Hanggang dumating ‘yung araw na hindi na po ako makalakad at halos gumagapang na po ako at hindi na po ako makatayo sa sobrang sakit ng tiyan ko. At hindi na po ako makakain at wala na po ako pang-amoy,” he added.

Due to this, Oxales did not wait for his employer and took a rapid test on August 27. He tested positive for the illness.

“’Yan po ay clear violation ng existing guidelines ng DOLE at ng DTI. Ang nais po natin ay ma-halt natin o mahinto natin ‘yung spread ng COVID-19 at kailangan po natin ng kooperasyon ng employer at ng ating worker,” Tutay said.

GMA News had sought comment from Gopes but he has yet to respond to calls and text messages.

Before noon on Friday, Oxales reported that he was being asked to leave the garage where he was quarantined.

“Malaking kalapastangan po ‘yan sa karapatan ng ating manggagawa lalo na po dito sa panahon ng COVID-19 pandemic. So, the more po na kailangan nating mapuntahan ‘yang employer na ‘yan at siguraduhin po na sila po ay sumusunod po sa patakaran ng DOLE at DTI,” Tutay said.

DOLE will send labor inspectors to the Fermina Express. Meanwhile, Oxales will be moved by the Quezon City Health Office to a quarantine facility. Joahna Lei Casilao/DVM, GMA News

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