Davao City LGU won’t ban travelers from Northern Mindanao

The CIty Hall of Davao in October 2020, in the time of COVID-19. MIndaNews photo by GREGORIO C. BUENO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 July) – The City Government of Davao will not ban travelers coming from Northern Mindanao even after six cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant or B.1.617.2 were detected there, Mayor Sara Duterte said Monday.

Instead of a travel ban, Duterte said over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) that the local government would continue to enforce the existing protocols, including the “symptoms screening” at the border checkpoint.

She said the city government would continue to implement the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease and the Regional Task Force Against COVID-19 (RIATF-RTF) on the “Uniform Guidelines to Regulate Entry and Exit in Regional Borders of Region 11” issued last May 3.

“We’re discussing travel from CDO (Cagayan de Oro) because, as I said, we don’t know who is asymptomatic because the COVID-19 virus is invisible to the naked eye and we also can’t determine what kind of variant (there could be),” she said.

The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the presence of five cases in Cagayan de Oro and one in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental of locally transmitted Delta variant, considered a variant of concern and first detected in India.

She said no additional instructions were provided to law enforcers manning the regional checkpoint in Marilog District, located at the boundary with Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao region.

The RIATF-RTF resolution, released to provide “harmonious implementation” of the protocols at the regional borders, is applicable to inter-regional movement or movement from one region to another. Non-residents traveling for essential purposes will only need to show proof of appointment, medical prescription/referral or any other documents showing proof of essential transaction.

It said movement of authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) is allowed, provided that they present an identification card, certificate of employment or travel order or itinerary, and must pass symptom-screening at the ports of entry.

APORs include heath and emergency frontline services and uniformed personnel; government officials and employees on official travel and official business; duly-authorized humanitarian assistance actors, especially those transporting medical supplies and laboratory specimens related to COVID-19, and other relief and humanitarian assistance; persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons; persons going to and from the airport; anyone crossing zones for work or business permitted in the zone of destination, and going back home; and public utility vehicle operators.

The resolution also provides that movement of all types of goods and cargos shall be unhampered, but it required that personnel of delivery vehicles must be limited up to a maximum of five persons only; personnel shall undergo usual symptom screening protocol at port of destination’s entry; and strict social distancing must be observed, which may include, if necessary, the putting up of additional safe and humane seats or space in the vehicles.

It added that non-residents of Davao Region will be required to comply with a negative virus test result taken within 72 hours in addition to the requirements of resort booking confirmation and StaySafe.ph mobile application, the official contact tracing digital app of the Philippine government.

It said that RT-PCR test results shall be submitted electronically by the tourists immediately upon receipt of results to the management of the resort not earlier than 72 hours upon entry into the region. Resort management will immediately submit the same upon receipt to the DOH-Davao Operation Center for verification, and a certification will be provided once validated.

The DOH-Davao will be tasked to endorse to police authorities a list of verified RT-PCR test results within 24 hours from verification, and will provide a list of accredited laboratories and sample of RT-PCR test results for guidance and reference of personnel manning the checkpoints.

Duterte said she is not discounting the possibility that the Delta variant may have already found its way to the city since not all specimens from the city are being sent for genome sequencing at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

She stressed the consistent observance of minimum public health standards such as wearing of face mask, distancing and hand washing, as well as vaccination against COVID-19 will work against the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant in the community, lowering the risk of hospitalization.

Last month, the DOH-Davao confirmed that two out of three cases of Alpha variant or B.1.1.7, first detected in the UK, and five out of 11 cases of Beta variant or B.1.351 in the region were detected in Davao City.

As of July 18, DOH-Davao reported 186 new cases of COVID-19 in Davao City, bringing the total to 28,499 with 2,450 active cases, 25,081 recoveries and 968 deaths. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)