‘One-Island’ swab policy for ROFs eyed in entire Cebu
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The entire island of Cebu plans to sway away from swabbing policies of the national government’s anti-COVID task force.
Key officials of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease in Central Visayas (RIATF – 7) held an emergency meeting at the Capitol on Monday, May 10, the Capitol’s media arm, Sugbo News, reported.
Sugbo News mentioned Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) director Dr. Jaime Bernadas, announcing that there is a plan to implement a ‘One-Island, Swabbing-Upon-Arrival’ policy for returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) bound for Cebu.
“After a consultation with the tri-cities (Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu), so that this will be a One-Island, Swabbing-Upon-Arrival with the reasons and data we have, that they kept recording more positive cases upon arrival than on the fifth day and more so after the seventh day,” Bernadas told officials virtually.
However, the proposal does not cover passengers transiting in Cebu, and non-Cebu residents, said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson and chief pathologist of DOH-7, who was also present during the meeting.
“For passengers transiting in Cebu and are not from Cebu, then we will follow the IATF Resolution No. 114 that they will stay for 10 days,” Loreche explained.
Monday’s meeting came after the Malacañang announced that the IATF will be implementing stricter health protocols for incoming ROFs.
All travelers entering the country must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in which 10 days will be spent in isolation rooms in hotels. The remaining days are subject to home isolation.
The IATF also instructed that swabbing for RT-PCR tests will only be conducted on the 7th day of the passenger’s quarantine. In addition, they will have to complete their quarantine schedule even if they test negative of COVID-19.
But the Cebu Provincial Government stood firm on its decision not to follow the new IATF guidelines and will stick to its swabbing-upon-arrival rule.
“So if need be, I’ll fight for Cebu. And I’ll fight for this local autonomy under Republic Act No. 7166 of which my father was one of the framers,” said Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, who presided Monday’s emergency meeting.
The Provincial Board also passed an ordinance formalizing the easement of travel restrictions for all inbound travelers for Cebu province on Monday.
The new provincial ordinance, in effect, incorporated all prevailing protocols regarding the influx of travelers, both from domestic and overseas destinations, into local laws. In particular, those found under Executive Orders (EO) No. 9 and EO No. 17.
EO No. 9 removed negative RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) test results as part of the travel condition for local travelers.
EO No. 17, on the other hand, did away with mandatory quarantine for returning Filipino travelers from abroad, and that they should be swabbed for COVID-19 upon arrival – not on the sixth day after they landed in Cebu.
Travelers with pending test results will have to stay in a designated hotel until they are confirmed to be COVID-free. Otherwise, they will be transported directly to isolation facilities for proper treatment.
Garcia earlier said travel restrictions only meant more financial burden to travelers. /rcg
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