Senate suspends sessions, on-site work as 88 employees sick with COVID-19

Senate suspends sessions this week amid rising COVID-19 cases

Facade of the Senate of the Philippines building. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is suspending plenary sessions and on-site work this week in light of 88 active COVID-19 cases among its employees and will only allow minimal staff in its building in Pasay City.

On Monday, the Senate suspended its session until Monday next week, which means it will not hold plenary sessions for the rest of the week.

“Allowing the surge to simmer down. Too many positive employees. Secretariat and senator’s staff,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told INQUIRER.net in a message when asked regarding the suspension of this week’s sessions.

The Senate currently has 88 active COVID-19 infections among its personnel while 196 others are undergoing home quarantine, according to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“So medyo kulang ang personnel natin sa Senado [So we are short on staff in the Senate]. Our medical head suggested that we continue with the work holiday to allow the staff to recover,” Zubiri told reporters in a Viber message.

Sotto said only a “skeletal” staff and members of the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) would be the ones allowed in the Senate building during the week.

However, the Senate president can call for a resumption of the session this week if need be.

In an advisory, Senate officers and employees were told that work suspension will be extended from Jan. 18 to 23. Sotto earlier ordered a “total closure” of the Senate last week.

READ: Sotto to order ‘total closure’ of Senate from Jan. 10 to 16 for disinfection

“Employees are reminded to continue to make themselves available to answer inquiries from and to render assistance to their immediate supervisors through the various means of communication under a work from home arrangement,” the advisory read.

Committee hearings, technical working group meetings and other meetings which have already been scheduled can be conducted online.

Senate employees were likewise urged to refrain from making non-essential trips and reminded to comply with health protocols.

“These protocols include the reporting one’s suspected COVID-19 symptoms and exposure to persons and exposure to persons who manifest COVID-19 symptoms to competent authorities, including the [Senate] Medical and Dental Bureau and respective head of office,” the advisory stated.

On Monday, the Philippines logged 37,070 more COVID-19 cases, over 13,000 of which were recorded in Metro Manila.

READ: PH logs 37,070 more COVID-19 cases; over 33K others recover

abc

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