Mayor Duterte nixes reimposition of ‘test before travel’ for inbound air travelers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 January) – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte rejected the recommendation of the health cluster of the city’s COVID-19 Task Force to reinstate the “test before travel” policy for domestic air travelers amid the threat of the Omicron variant in the country.

Inbound passengers at the Davao International Airport. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

During her program over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Monday, Duterte reiterated that she was not keen on reimplementing the policy to screen inbound passengers from other areas.

She said the negative result for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR testing imposed upon inbound domestic travelers before proved futile in preventing a surge of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) last year.

“Let’s base it on our “test before travel” then. We still had many cases and we still had a surge even if we had a test before travel. It will not prevent the entry of COVID. It will just force people to spend on tests and force others to resort to land travel,” she said.

Duterte noted that the stringent measure was implemented then while mass vaccination against the infection was not yet available.

She added that the policy may only cause “economic inconvenience.”

“The benefit of “test before travel” to screen those who are positive do not outweigh the economic inconvenience that it will bring to the passengers, to the airline and to the economy of Davao City,” she said.

Duterte said that there is “a sector of the local population protected from severe disease” since the majority of the Dabawenyos have been inoculated with anti-COVID-19 vaccines.

As of December 31, the City Government of Davao reported a total of 1,230,245 individuals vaccinated with the first dose and 1,137,586 fully vaccinated against the virus. The government reported 28,155 individuals who received their booster shots.

Duterte believed that the infection would still find its way to the city regardless if the local government would push through with reimplementing the test before travel policy.

The mayor ordered the suspension of Davao City Ordinance No. 0477-21, known as the “Ordinance Providing for Mandatory Testing Prior to Entry into Davao City via Davao International Airport effective November 16, 2021 until January 15, 2022, after the city reported a significant drop in the number of COVID-19 cases due to high vaccination rate.

The policy required travelers to get tested for the infection 24 to 72 hours before their scheduled flight to the city.

“The virus will still enter the city because, as we have experienced before, they may test negative right now because the virus is still incubating and then they will test positive (later on),” she said.

She said breakthrough infections or those fully vaccinated individuals who contract the virus are either asymptomatic or mild, except those with severe comorbidity who may need hospital care.

As of January 9, the Department of Health – Davao reported 74 new cases, bringing the total to 54,317 with 433 active, 52,091 recoveries and 1,793 deaths. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)