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    Still fearing COVID, Filipinos are mobile out of necessity — survey

    PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

    Although working Filipinos still fear coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), they are now more willing to go out, a recent study showed.

    A 2021 survey of the Filipino workforce by health maintenance organization PhilhealthCare, Inc. (PhilCare) found that a majority of 1,500 respondents “strongly agree” that the thought of being exposed to the virus still causes stress.

    Despite this anxiety, they also said that they are now capable of going out in public. The 2021 survey saw more neutral answers in relation to being comfortable with going to the hospital, compared to the 2020 survey in which there was no consensus.

    The same question about going to supermarkets elicited more agreeable responses, compared to last year’s neutral sentiments.

    With the Philippines logging among the lowest daily cases in Southeast Asia, the presidential palace recently announced that Metro Manila and nearby cities will remain under Alert Level 1, the lowest coronavirus alert level, until April 15.

    Meanwhile, business owners and corporate leaders should try to gauge employees’ sentiments when it comes to company policies during the pandemic, noted PhilCare president and chief executive officer Joseph Agustin “Jaeger” L. Tanco.

    “We understand that we cannot maintain the same level of restriction that we implemented during the onset of the pandemic. However, it doesn’t mean that we could also drop our vigilance regarding keeping ourselves and our families safe from the coronavirus,” Mr. Tanco said.

    QUARANTINE FATIGUE

    To fight quarantine fatigue resulting from following health mandates for so long, workplaces must take an active role in easing into the new normal, he added.

    This fatigue was detected by PhilCare’s 2021 survey, which saw a drop in agreement to washing hands and disinfecting items bought outside compared to results from the same study a year before.

    The Department of Health warned on Tuesday that a decline in people’s compliance with the minimum health standards could cause infections to rise to 670 a day by the end of April. The Philippines recorded an average of 389 daily infections in the past week, 24% lower than the previous week.

    Mr. Tanco explained that the culture promoted at work “highly influences the beliefs, sentiments, and decision making of workers.”

    Initiatives that can ease health and safety concerns include encouraging employees to get vaccinated and boosted, involving them in crafting pandemic-related policies, and being open to accommodate flexible work arrangements, according to PhilCare.

    “At this point, we understand that following strict health and safety protocols out of fear could really lead to quarantine fatigue and burnout. We don’t want that to happen. To be able to journey into the new normal, we have to recognize that we need to have something to look forward to,” added Mr. Tanco.

    The PhilCare Wellness Index was conducted via a nationwide telephone survey in September 2021, covering Metro Manila and 65 provinces. Most respondents are employees, with 64.5% working for private firms. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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