Davao City shifts gear, focuses on predeparture COVID-19 tests instead
DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — As cases of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rise, the city government here has opted to stop rapid antibody tests on arriving passengers and focus instead on screening passengers leaving the city.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio said the arrival of overseas Filipino workers and stranded passengers here had contributed to the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the city. But since June 8, she had stopped the Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) at the airport to concentrate on predeparture screening instead.
“We decided to pull out the RDT on arriving passengers since we can only get a few results. It’s not worth our investments,” Duterte said over the government-run Davao City disaster radio. “Instead, we intensified our community surveillance.”
She added that the RDTs were sent to the health districts to test people in the community instead.
“It’s up to the doctors in the [health] districts to decide who among the people should be given the RDT or PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests so that we would know who among the people in the districts are infected,” the mayor said.
This meant, however, that the city would have to rely on the predeparture clearances issued by other local governments to assess the health conditions of arriving passengers.
Duterte said she had already informed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the national government that the city had implemented a predeparture health screening on passengers leaving the city.
“Passengers who would test positive of COVID-19 upon boarding the flight would not be allowed to leave the city,” she said.
“We have written to the DOTr and the national government that we will only do the predeparture testing, so other airports should also do the same. So that if a passenger about to board a flight should test positive, the passenger should not be allowed to board the plane at all,” she added.
As of Saturday, June 13, the Department of Health had monitored 19 new COVID-19 cases in the Davao region, 17 of them in Davao City.
Duterte said she had ordered the lockdown of more than 30 villages and city streets, where cases were detected in the previous week.
In Northern Mindanao, a one-year-old infant girl from Gingoog City became the youngest COVID-19 patient in the region after she and her father tested positive for the virus on Saturday.
Gingoog City Mayor Erick Cañosa said the infant’s father, a 30-year-old construction worker from Tondo, Manila, arrived with his wife at the port of Cagayan de Oro on June 10.
Cañosa said the wife tested negative, but the father and child both tested positive based on PCR tests at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center.
The family arrived on board a 2GO vessel under the “Balik-Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-asa” program of the national government.
—Reports from Germelina Lacorte, Froilan Gallardo, Leah Agonoy
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