World Health Organization country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe cautioned the government against plans to remove mandatory Covid-19 tests for domestic travelers, saying any decision to remove Covid testing must be “carefully calibrated” considering the existence of new variants and high cases of infection in some areas of the country.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III previously revealed plans to streamline travel requirements – including the removal of swab testing – in a bid to revive domestic tourism that can only be described as risky and desperate.
The DILG official explained that Covid-19 testing should be limited to persons who have symptoms, were exposed to infected individuals and those who had the disease themselves. Instead of swab tests, travelers will be required to undergo clinical testing at the terminal of origin and destination.
The DILG believes that strict observance of minimum health standards is enough to prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to studies done by the Department of Health. If approved by local chief executives, the proposal would be presented to the IATF for implementation.
Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat backed the suggestion, citing results of a recent survey where 81 percent said varying travel rules make travel most inconvenient.
On Monday, Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued an executive order saying the province of Cebu will no longer require domestic tourists to show a negative Covid-19 test before being allowed entry.
After almost one year of quarantines and lockdowns that have been minimally effective in controlling the spread of Covid, it would seem that our officials have decided to throw caution to the wind as they focus on resuscitating an economy that has been badly battered by the raging pandemic.
While reducing infections to the point that we can do away with Covid-19 testing for domestic travelers is the goal, it would be unwise to skip the conditions that would make such a move smart just because we have been unable to flatten the curve after an entire year of government officials doing the same thing but expecting different results.
The Filipino people are understandably getting angry and frustrated at the slow pace of recovery but it would be unwise to arbitrarily ignore restrictions and protections that have been put in place to protect communities from even more infections that would further cripple any chance of recovery in the near future.*