Davao suspends free swab tests for arriving plane passengers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 January) – Free swab tests for arriving passengers at the Davao International Airport have been suspended since Wednesday, as the city is redirecting resources to address the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases, City Tourism Operations Office head Generose Tecson said on Thursday.

Davao International Airport. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Tecson, concurrent head of the Airport Health Monitoring Team, said in a text message that over 2,000 specimens weekly are being processed at the One World Diagnostic Center, commissioned by the local government to administer the swab tests on arriving passengers without a “negative” reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) issued within 24 to 72 hours.

The city government has been footing the bill to test air passengers for COVID-19 since July 2020. A swab test costs P5,000 per passenger.

Tecson said the free swab tests at the airport will resume once the Los Amigos COVID-19 Laboratory of the city government 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.

“We will be opening the new molecular laboratory very soon,” he said.

Tecson said the local government needs to focus on addressing local transmission, which causes the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

She said residents and non-residents will no longer be required to present RT-PCR test results, but added that those with “negative” virus tests are prioritized for exit from the airport after checking their health declaration forms.

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

For residents without negative RT-PCR test results, she said the local government will make sure that they comply with the requirements, and will be given health monitoring forms because they need to check in with the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team.

She said returning residents will undergo a 14-day home quarantine.

As of January 13, the Department of Health-Davao reported 154 new cases, bringing the total cases to 14,428, with 2,333 active ones, 11,505 recoveries, and 590 deaths in the region.

Of the total, Davao City, which reported the highest COVID-19 incidence in Mindanao, tallied 9,954 cases, with 1,376 active ones, 8,110 recoveries, and 468 deaths.

Davao de Oro reported 705 cases, Davao del Norte 1,915, Davao del Sur 1,068, Davao Occidental 164, and Davao Oriental 622. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)