Philippines warned vs lifting swab tests for tourists

Helen Flores, Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
Philippines warned vs lifting swab tests for tourists
A medical technologist conducts a swab test at a Red Cross testing center in Mandaluyong City. The DILG earlier revealed plans to streamline travel requirements, including the removal of mandatory swab testing, in a bid to revive domestic tourism.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe yesterday cautioned the government against plans to remove mandatory COVID-19 tests for domestic travelers.

At a virtual briefing, the WHO official said the decision to remove COVID testing must be “carefully calibrated” considering the existence of new variants and high cases of infection in some areas of the country.

“From this scenario, a very careful decision needs to be made, whether allowing people to travel without testing (should be made). But that has to be very carefully assessed (before) decision can be made because as you know, the process is a risk-based process that needs to be carefully evaluated frequently,” Abeyasinghe pointed out.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III previously revealed plans to streamline travel requirements – including the removal of swab testing – in a bid to revive domestic tourism.

The DILG official explained that COVID-19 testing should be limited to persons who have symptoms, were exposed to infected individuals and those who had the disease themselves.

Instead of swab tests, travelers will be required to undergo clinical testing at the terminal of origin and terminal of destination.

The DILG believes that strict observance of minimum health standards is enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to studies done by the Department of Health (DOH).

If approved by local chief executives, the proposal would be presented to the IATF for implementation.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat backed the suggestion, citing the results of a recent survey where 81 percent said varying travel rules make travel most inconvenient.

“The DOT has long been advocating for the simplification of travel requirements as this is critical in making domestic tourism work,” Puyat said in a statement.

On Monday, Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued an executive order saying that the province of Cebu will no longer require domestic tourists to show a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed entry.


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