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DOH-7 maintains swab policy
“But there is also what we call as syndromic surveillance, which is what the governor intends to do for the province. This is in line with her thrust to open the tourism industry,” Loreche said in comment to the Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s Executive Order No. 12 easing travel restrictions among local tourists in going to Cebu Province.

DOH-7 maintains swab policy

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - February 24, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  While Cebu province has decided to do away with swabbing for tourists, the Department of Health-7 stands by its endorsed guidelines on testing, which prescribe the rt-PCR and rapid antigen tests.

“But there is also what we call as syndromic surveillance, which is what the governor intends to do for the province. This is in line with her thrust to open the tourism industry,” Loreche said in comment to the Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s Executive Order No. 12 easing travel restrictions among local tourists in going to Cebu Province.

Syndromic surveillance, Loreche said, means to monitor and observe for the development of symptoms of COVID-19 and once there is a symptom, then a consultation should be done, test, isolate and contact tracing.

Loreche said that if this will be fully implemented with clear guidance, including the monitoring for adherence to the public health measures, then it can be considered.

Under EO 12, domestic tourists need not present rt-PCR test result in entering Cebu province as they are only required to present medical certificate issued by a reputable doctor within seven days prior to their travel date in purchasing ticket for sea, air and land travel.

They must also present a proof of their pre-booking to the hotels or resorts they are staying in the province and must pass the symptoms screening at the port of arrival and port of departure.

Garcia issued the EO to make it easier for travelers who want to visit Cebu's tourism destinations as part of the reopening of Cebu’s economy, which has been battered by the pandemic.

Canyoneering

Among those who welcomed this development were the canyoneering operators in Badian town, southern Cebu.

“We are pleased and thankful for the governor’s decision in making the requirement easier. As we all know, Cebu is considered number one [among] the most visited islands in the Philippines and our livelihood is dependent on tourism,” the Association of Kawasan Canyoneering Operators of Badian (AKCOB) said in a statement.

Michelle Joy Padayhag, the group’s spokesperson, said dropping the swab test result as a requirement upon entry into the province would also ease the financial burden of the tourists, especially the budget travellers.

She added that the 40-member group is taking measures to ensure the health and safety of their guests.

Cebu City

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has expressed no objection to Garcia’s executive order but he said the city will continue to abide with the Department of Health testing protocols.

“After consultation with our medical experts, we've decided to continue to abide with DOH Testing Protocols. Insofar as the Province's EO, we respect it and that is the prerogative of the governor,” said Labella yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised healthcare professionals and the general public that the saliva antigen test kit approved by the FDA is not an rt-PCR test kit.

“It is a rapid antigen-based test kit and its utility and accuracy are not the same as an rt-PCR test,” said FDA director-general Rolando Enrique Domingo.

RT-PCR based testing is the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is the only laboratory accredited by the Department of Health to use saliva as a sample for RT-PCR testing.

“Please be reminded that the two tests are not equivalent and results are not interchangeable. The administration and use of these tests should be done by trained health professionals,” added Domingo.

Loreche said that should there be saliva testing be done here, the result will still consider it as COVID probable that still needs  confirmation test since there are no existing guidelines from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Health Technology Assessment Council on the conduct of saliva test.

“Since there is no guidelines yet that will uphold or will include saliva as acceptable specimen for PCR based on our guidelines in testing released in November, we are really going to consider here in the Visayas a result of a saliva PCR test from Red Cross as a probable case... Meaning to say, kung positive na siya, probably COVID, i-extract, i-isolate and we can do a confirmation,” said Loreche.

Loreche also cautioned clinics that are using saliva testing to seek accreditation and license from DOH’s licensing division. — with Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Mary Ruth R. Malinao and Le Phyllis F. Antojado, JMD (FREEMAN)

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