DILG mulls removing mandatory swab testing when traveling
MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday is mulling to no longer mandate travelers of getting tested for coronavirus before going to their destination.
“Tinitignan din namin ang posibilidad na wala nang testing at klinaro namin ito sa Department of Health (DOH). Noong nakaraan, sinasabi ng Department of Health, okay ang testing kung ikaw ay nagpapakita ng sintomas ng virus pangalawa. Kung ikaw ay naexpose at kung ikaw ay mismo pasyente ng covid-19, iyan mandatatory testing po iyan,” DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said in an interview with ABS-CBN Teleradyo, when asked about Cebu’s decision to drop testing before travel requirement.
(We are looking into the possibility of removing testing and we clarified this with DOH. Last time, DOH said it’s okay to get tested if you have symptoms, if you are exposed to a Covid-19 patient and if you are a Covid-19 patient.)
“Pero kung wala kang ganoong klaseng exposure, hindi mandated ang testing. Banggit ng ating mga epidemiologists at doctor, na as long as may minimum health standards, kaya paulit ulit po tayo, face mask, face shield, social distancing, yung paghuhugas ng kamay, kasi kung lagi tong na-me-maintain, ‘di tayo makakapaghawa at hindi rin tayo mahahawa,” he added.
(But if you don’t have exposure, it’s not mandated. Our epidemiologists say as long as you follow minimum health standards and this is maintained the virus won’t be transmitted and the host won’t transmit the virus.)
Instead of testing, Densing pointed out that they plan to require clinical assessment for travelers at the terminal of origin as well as terminal of destination.
“Ang panukala namin magkakaroon ng clinical assessment sa terminal of origin saka terminal of destination. ‘Yung pinakamalapit sa pagba-biyahe mo doon ka na che-check-upin so pagpasok mo ng airport o ng sea terminal che-check-up-in ka na doon. Hindi ito ordinary check up kundi clinical assessment ang tawag diyan,” he said when asked about the possibility of local government units (LGUs) that would hesitate to remove testing as a requirement.
(We want to have a clinical assessment at the terminal of origin and destination. They will undergo check up so once you enter the terminals they will assess you.)
“Kung wala kang senyales ng Covid-19, pwede ka na papasukin. Tapos pagdating pa ganoon din gagawin ng terminal hanggang sa lumabas ka,” he added.
(If they found that you have no symptoms, you can enter the LGU. Once you arrive at the destination, the terminal there will also check you for symptoms.)
The DILG official also said they will still propose this to the national government before implementing the new travel protocols.
“Kailangang i-harmonize, kailangang isang panukala kaya inaangat natin sa IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] dahil nasa public health emergency pa tayo ngayon kailangan mayroong basbas ng pambansang gobyerno at yung mga lokal na gobyerno ang sumunod sa protokol na ito,” he said.
(We need to harmonize the protocols. IATF will need to approve this and the local government will need to follow.)
When sought for reaction about removing Covid-19 tests before the travel requirement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said they will “leave it up to LGUs.”
“The DOT [Department of Tourism] fully recognizes the prerogative of our LCEs (local chief executives) in deciding what protocols will best suit their particular situations,” said Puyat in a text message to Inquirer.net
Currently, LGUs require negative swab test results, medical clearances, and travel passes. But Cebu, which was previously placed under enhanced community quarantine, already eased its travel restrictions by removing the requirement to test travelers to reopen their economy.
The government’s Covid-19 task force is also looking into standardizing travel requirements between LGUs due to difficulty in movement.
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