Omicron threat: Davao mulls reviving ‘test before travel’ rule

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 January) – Authorities here have discussed the possibility of reviving the “test before travel” policy for in-bound and interzonal travelers amid the threat of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), an official said.

During the “Bida Bakunado” program over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Friday, Dr. Michelle Schlosser, spokesperson for Davao City COVID-19 Task Force said the response and health clusters of the local task force suggested requiring again RT-PCR tests for air passengers amid the ongoing surge of infections in the National Capital Region.

Schlosser, who admitted that COVID-19 cases in the city have increased, said the body has yet to come out with a final decision.

As of Thursday, the Department of Health-Davao reported 67 new infections in the city,  bringing the total cases to 54,048 with 155 active, 52,102 recoveries, and 1,791 deaths.

Mayor Sara Duterte ordered the suspension of 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 a high vaccination rate.

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

Last Monday, Duterte said the city government is not inclined to reimpose the “test before travel” policy for arriving air passengers amid the threat of the Omicron variant.

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

“We want people to travel more and want people to travel to Davao City. We are already at 1,230,000 first doses. We have a good number of Dabawenyos who have been protected from severe and critical COVID-19 infection,” she said at the time.

But on Friday, Schlosser announced the possibility of reviving RT-PCR tests for local travels, although “it’s not yet final. We have to harmonize the IATF alert level guidelines because under alert level 2, there are no restrictions for interzonal and domestic flights.”

She added the test is mandatory for international travelers to present negative swab test results, following the guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

She said the local government needs to harmonize the guidelines to “avoid unnecessary panic or discomfort” to the locals. She said that border restrictions are strictly implemented here. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)