Davao Airport’s COVID-19 lab opens, but…

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Jan) – The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) laboratory at the Davao International Airport (DIA), which started running after securing a license to operate from the Department of Health (DOH) last Friday, will not be used to test arriving air passengers for the infection, Mayor Sara Duterte said.

During her program over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5), she said that the capacity of the city’s latest reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) laboratory is insufficient to test all arriving passengers averaging from 800 to 1,000 daily.

The laboratory, donated by the UNILAB Foundation, Inc. on September 24, 2020, can run 94 to 300 tests a day.

Prior to the release of license, the molecular lab was used for training of medical technologists and validation of result purposes.

The airport laboratory is the city’s third COVID-19 testing laboratory and the fourth in the region. The others in the city are operated by the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) and the private-owned Davao One World Diagnostic Center. The Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City Davao del Norte also has one.

The city government suspended the free COVID-19 swab tests at the DIA last January 13 to “redirect resources to address the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases.” Free COVID-19 testing will resume once Los Amigos COVID-19 Laboratory of the city government in Tugbok District starts to operate.

Dr. Ashley Lopez, Davao City Health COVID-19 focal person, said the local government is just awaiting the proficiency test for the medical technologists before the laboratory opens.

Residents and non-residents will no longer be required to present RT-PCR test results issued within 24 to 72 hours before the scheduled flight to Davao.

But those with “negative” virus tests are prioritized for exit from the airport after checking their health declaration forms.

The local government appealed to neighboring local government units to fetch their residents from the airport.

For residents without negative RT-PCR test results, the local government monitors their compliance with the requirements, and will be given health monitoring forms because they need to check in with the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team.

Returning residents will undergo a 14-day home quarantine.

As of January 18, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region reported 123 new cases, bringing the total cases to 15,200, with 2,618 active, 11,970 recoveries, and 612 deaths in the region.

Out of the total, Davao City, which reported the highest COVID-19 cases in Mindanao, tallied 10,473 cases, with 1,525 active, 8,463 recoveries, and 485 deaths.

Davao de Oro reported 741 cases, Davao del Norte with 2,041, Davao del Sur with 1,103, Davao Occidental with 165, and Davao Oriental with 677. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)