Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. is preparing for the gradual return of its employees to the workplace by testing all 70,000 of them in phases using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests, deemed as the gold standard for diagnosing coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
SMC announced on Wednesday that it had begun testing its manpower for COVID-19 infection as part of an extensive plan to reopen its workplaces safely and continue providing essential services to the public.
Swabbing is now ongoing in key facilities of the company while a dedicated testing lab is being built. Construction of this in-house testing lab is 60 percent complete to date.
SMC likewise vowed to strictly implement workplace safety measures – from physical distancing, wearing of protective equipment, frequent hand washing to conducting temperature checks, among others – to ensure the safety of its 70,000 workforce, including third-party providers.
“We are prioritizing, first, our security and other maintenance staff, as they are the ones who take care of our workplace. After them, we test our colleagues whose duties require them to report to the office,” SMC president Ramon S. Ang said in a press statement. “Initially we are looking at only 20 percent of our head office population to report for work. Majority will still continue to work from home.”
Ang said COVID-19 testing at SMC’s other facilities, particularly its food manufacturing plants in Cavite, was also set to start. Throughout the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period, teams of stay-in workers have been working around the clock at San Miguel’s food facilities to continue essential food production.
“We will also test close to 8,000 manufacturing and operations and management frontline staff. We are also lining up testing at our Visayas facilities simultaneously,” he added.
Testing in Visayas and Davao (Mindanao) is scheduled toward the end of May or early June.
Once its dedicated PCR testing laboratory is up and running, SMC expects to test even more employees and help ensure their safe return to work.
PCR testing is believed to be the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19, because it is highly reliable and accurate.
“We are doing this in phases. The success with which we can quickly test a large percentage of our employee population over the next few weeks will be a key consideration in the timelines of our overall return-to-work plan. Currently, we are working with partner laboratories to process the tests, but once our lab is up, we expect to be able to process more tests quickly so we don’t burden the system and we can take care of our employees,” he added.
“Being able to test to identify who has the virus quickly, isolate them from the rest of the employee population and to monitor the workforce for indicative symptoms will allow us to emerge from this crisis strong.”
Ang also reiterated SMC’s commitment to continue helping government, medical front liners, local government units, and less-fortunate communities throughout the crisis.
Recently, SMC vowed to support all 17 Metro Manila local government units in their efforts to expand COVID-19 testing in their respective areas. SMC is donating swab booths as well as PCR testing kits equivalent to 34,000 tests.
The company is donating additional three sets of RT-PCR testing machines and RNA machines to key government hospitals. This is on top of five sets of the same machines donated to the Department of Health earlier, along with testing kits equivalent to 20,000 tests. This doubled the country’s testing capacity at the time.
Ang is also advocating for accessible testing, in particular, free testing for lower-income families, and affordable testing for everyone else, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that have to test their employees.
SMC, whose major business include San Miguel Food and Beverage Inc.–made up of San Miguel Foods Inc., San Miguel Brewery Inc., and Ginebra San Miguel Inc–Petron Corp., SMC Global Power Holdings Inc., and SMC Infrastructure, has reported that its group-wide COVID-19 response has reached P13.08 billion as of May 12.
The response package also included a P500 million budget for medical equipment and supplies, P487 million spent on food donations including products and rice, P91.8 million in free disinfecting alcohol, P15.37 million in disinfecting powder, P11 million in free toll for medical front liners at its expressways, and P5.8 million in free fuel for government’s “Libreng Sakay” program for medical workers, among many others.
The conglomerate also paid P8.77 billion in taxes and concession fees to ensure availability of funds for government while it pumped P3.09 billion into the economy through full salaries for employees and payments to third-party providers, alongside a P100 million personal donation from the Ang family for COVID-19 initiatives.
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