Cebu Province to swab upon arrival unvaccinated, partially vaccinated travelers
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebu Province will be abiding by the newly released COVID-19 guidelines of the National Interagency Task Force (IATF) for incoming travelers from abroad giving privileges to those who are fully vaccinated.
Except that Cebu will require unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers from abroad to undergo a swab upon arrival at the airport or seaports.
Fully vaccinated individuals must present a negative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test taken 48 hours before departure and they no longer need to quarantine in a facility upon arrival.
They are still required to self-monitor for seven days and must report to the local government unit (LGU) should they develop symptoms.
For the unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or individuals whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated, they shall be required to present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.
Additionally, they shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of their negative RT-PCR test taken on the fifth day. After which, they shall be required to undergo home quarantine until their 14th day, with the date of arrival being the first day.
In Memorandum Number 6-2022 released on January 28, 2022, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia enjoined the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), and airline operators to follow the new guidelines.
The governor has decided to keep the swabbing upon arrival only for the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals. Afterward, they will be quarantined in a facility until the fifth day, upon which they will be tested again.
“Airline operators are enjoined to require international passengers traveling to Cebu to present proof of their full vaccination at their place of origin upon check-in. Absence of said proof shall classify the traveler as unvaccinated or partially unvaccinated,” said Garcia in the memorandum
Caution from DOH-7
The Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) warned that even fully vaccinated individuals bring the risk of the virus as they can prove positive on the testing upon arrival.
“A word of caution based on our on the ground data. Kung titignan po natin marami po tayong fully vaccinated arrivals na positive pa rin upon arrival, data taken from MCIA. Kasi sa totoo naman po tayo lang naman ang masipag mag testing ng libre sa RT-PCR sa lahat ng pumapasok sa MCIA as part of our border control,” said Doctor Mary Jean Loreche, the chief pathologist of DOH-7.
She said that for the past season of surges, the testing upon arrival has proven to be a huge help in containing variants of concerns from other countries.
“I am one with the need to incentivize fully vaccinated but then again our cases are still high. There are also very high cases abroad. I really hope that we can retain the testing upon arrival bago natin sila mairelease at kahit papaano, at least mahahabol natin sila sa LGUs (local government units),” Loreche added.
Loreche believes that a swab upon arrival even for fully vaccinated individuals reduces the risk that the vaccinated are unknowingly bringing the virus into their homes.
Still, because of the new guidelines, Loreche said travelers from abroad should be empowered to be self-aware, to monitor themselves, and to follow health protocols to avoid bringing in the COVID-19 or any of its variants into Cebu.
As of January 28, Loreche said the confirmed Omicron variant cases in Central Visayas is now 46.
An additional 24 specimens returned from the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) on Friday, proving positive to the Omicron variant.
Loreche notes that of the 46 Omicron cases, only three were admitted and all of them are alive. Some have recovered, all are vaccinated except one.
The DOH-7 considers the current rise of COVID-19 cases in Cebu as an Omicron-drive surge.
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