MANILA (June 25) — The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) has urged the government and the private sector to adopt more aggressive strategies to contain the spread of Influenza A(H1N1), warning that the lingering virus, if left unchecked, could soon invade the country’s factories and diminish labor productivity in a big way.
TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera cited the case of the House of Representatives, which was compelled to temporarily shut down after one of its employees, a 49-year-old woman, became the country’s first Influenza A(H1N1) fatality.
“If the Batasan Pambansa complex, with some 4,000 congressional staff members, were a manufacturing facility forced to close down for a week, one can just imagine the potential drag on labor and overall economic output,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
“Like schools, factories and offices definitely have a high risk of becoming the potential sources of ‘community’ outbreaks because these are places where people congregate and interact in large numbers everyday for an extended period,” Herrera pointed out.
Herrera made the statement shortly after TUCP found out that the Philippines now ranks 12th worldwide in terms of “laboratory-confirmed cases” of Influenza A(H1N1).
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) update released at 3:00pm on June 24 (Manila time), the Philippines already has a total of 445 confirmed Influenza A(H1N1) cases, including one death.
Due to reporting delays, the 445 local cases posted by the WHO in its latest update actually lagged by 159 the 604 confirmed cases already listed by the Department of Health as of June 24.
Based on the WHO update, the 11 other countries with the greatest number of Influenza A(H1N1) cases are the United States (21,449 cases, 87 deaths); Mexico (7,847 cases, 115 deaths); Canada (6,457 cases, 15 deaths); Chile (4,315 cases, four deaths); the United Kingdom (2,905 cases, one death); Australia (2,857 cases, two deaths); Argentina (1,213 cases, seven deaths); China (906 cases, zero death); Japan (893 cases, zero death); Thailand (774 cases, zero death); and Spain (593 cases, zero death).
Completing the top 15 are New Zealand (386 cases, zero death); Israel (375 cases, zero death); and Brazil (334 cases, zero death).
Herrera, meanwhile, chided Education Secretary Jesli Lapus for “belittling” Influenza A (H1N1), when the latter likened the virus to “sore eyes or cough.”
“Even the common flu is a debilitating ailment. It may or may not be fatal, but it certainly incapacitates you until recovery. So comparing the far more vicious Influenza A (H1N1) to sore eyes or cough is like comparing apples to oranges,” Herrera said.
Herrera earlier urged private employers and government agencies to relax their sick leave rules in order to encourage staff to stay home if they develop flu-like symptoms. This way, he said firms and offices are not only kept free from Influenza A(H1N1), but also avoid or minimize potential productivity losses that may arise once large segments of their personnel get infected.
According to the WHO, a total of 55,867 cases of Influenza A(H1N1), with 238 deaths, have been reported in 109 countries. Of the total, 3,707 new cases and 7 deaths were reported in the 48 hours prior to the release of the June 24 update.