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Davao stops free swab tests at airport 

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Davao City will discontinue the free reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test upon arrival in the city, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said a day before the reimposition of the "test before travel" order at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport, also known as the Davao International Airport, according to a report by SunStar.

Starting March 23, 2021, the City Government will once again require individuals entering the city through Davao International Airport a negative RT-PCR test result taken not more than 72 hours.

Duterte-Carpio said in a radio interview on Monday, March 22, that air passengers must secure a negative test result from their point of origin before they board a plane for Davao City.

The reimposition of the mandatory test is in accordance to the City Ordinance 0477-21, Series of 2021, or an ordinance providing for mandatory testing prior to entry into the city via DIA.

The ordinance was signed by the mayor on March 2.

Section 4 of the ordinance states that "persons entering Davao City via the Davao International Airport are mandated to present their RT-PCR Covid-19 Test Result to Davao City officials and/or authorities, along with a valid government issued identification card."

Prior to the signing of the ordinance, the city implemented the mandatory RT-PCR to all air travelers in July 2020. Those who failed to secure their test results upon arrival at the airport were swabbed for free by the city. But this was suspended on January 13, 2021.

The mayor said the City Government already coordinated with all air companies to strictly impose the order to travelers bound for Davao City.

Airport Monitoring Team head Generose Tecson said in a previous report that the city is redirecting its resources to address the local transmission.

Tecson said the testing will resume once the Los Amigos Covid-19 Laboratory will start its operations.

But Duterte-Carpio said those who would arrive in the city without a test result will still be swabbed, but the expense will be shouldered by the passenger.

"But in the event nga duna gyu’y makasakay and gisugtan sa airline nga musakay nga walay test result (that there will be passengers who will be able to get on board after being allowed by the airlines), when they land here, they will be tested but it [will be] charge[d] sa ilang (to the passenger’s) account," Duterte-Carpio said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.

The mayor said the city will also honor saliva-based RT-PCR tests taken not more than 72 hours before the flight if done by the Philippine Red Cross.

Air passengers will also be required to secure their Safe Davao QR (DQR) Code, which will serve as an electronic contact tracing and travel pass platform.

Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio said those who present a falsified Covid-19 test result will be swabbed and will be transported to the government's quarantine facility until the issuance of a negative test and their release into the custody of law enforcement agencies.

The mayor said the RT-PCR test upon entry into the city is strictly for air passengers as "this is the fastest mode of transfer" of the virus.

“We will try to prevent a second wave for Davao City. And gi-unhan na nato na sa implementation sa ordinance nga kinahanglan duna kay (We are already one step ahead with the implementation of the ordinance requiring) 24-72 hours negative RT-PCR result para ka maka check-in sa airport (for passengers to be able to check-in at the airport),” she said.

She, however, assured that the city's border checkpoints are still strict in checking the place of origin of land travelers coming into the city.

Once they determine that the land traveler comes from Metro Manila or Cebu, Duterte-Carpio said checkpoint officials will endorse them to the nearest swabbing centers. However, they will no longer be quarantined, and that they will only be informed of their test result.

The test for land travelers will be shouldered by the city.

Passing through travelers coming from the mentioned areas will no longer be required to be swabbed.

The mayor said the city is looking into crafting an ordinance for the mandatory testing for land and sea travelers.

Tecson told SunStar Davao in a recent report that the "test-before-travel" requirement to all passengers is not in contradiction to the issued Resolution 101 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

According to the IATF, an LGU that will still require a Covid-19 test will be limited to RT-PCR.

Meanwhile, the city, in accordance with the IATF order, no longer requires travel authority from the Joint Task Force Covid Shield and health certificates.

Authorized persons outside residence (Apor) from National Government agencies and their attached agencies need only to present their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary.

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