DOH recommends COVID-19 retest for arrivals after 5 days

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2021 10:52 AM | Updated as of Jan 21 2021 04:05 PM

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MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said it is recommending the implementation of an additional testing requirement for travelers entering the Philippines.

This, after several contacts of the country’s first case with the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant turned out to be positive for the disease days later even when they tested negative upon arrival in Manila. 

“We already have recommended to the technical working group of the IATF (Interagency Task Force for COVID-19) na pagdating ng ating kababayan from any country kailangan po 'yung testing nila but we have to repeat the testing on the 5th day after they arrive before we release them to the LGUs (local government units),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a Laging Handa briefing.

(We already recommended to the technical working group of the IATF that if a Filipino arrives from any country, he should be tested then we have to repeat the testing on the 5th day after they arrive before we release them to the LGUs.)

Vergeire said this would make it more certain if an individual is indeed negative or positive for COVID-19.

She said they will present it at the IATF meeting on Thursday afternoon “and hopefully the principals (heads) of the IATF will also approve and hopefully we will have the resources for this.”

The proposal to re-test travelers came about after the Philippines detected its first case of the new and more transmissible COVID-19 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom.

The first case was a 29-year-old man from Quezon City who traveled to Dubai and tested positive upon returning to the Philippines on January 7. His girlfriend tested negative but was re-swabbed recently and turned out to be positive.

There are now three other passengers who initially had negative test results but tested positive upon the routine re-swabbing of all of the co-passengers that the first new variant case.

Vergeire previously explained that people who are infected with COVID-19 but are still in the incubation period may test negative even with the PCR test, which is considered the gold standard for COVID-19 testing.

The DOH said testing on arrival, testing on the 5th day and the strict 14-day quarantine would ensure that the travelers won’t spread COVID-19 when they return to their communities.