CEBU CITY – The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) began operations of the country’s first airport-dedicated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test laboratory.
According to MCIA operator GMR MEGAWIDE Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), the 400-sqm. laboratory was designed to process 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day with test results available within 24 hours, the quickest testing period among test labs in the Philippines.
The laboratory is manned and operated by Prime Care Medgruppe that has been accredited and certified by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) with a BSL-2 certification.
Equipped with its own heating, ventilator and air-conditioning system, the lab’s state-of-the-art equipment also includes two MagNA Pure 96 System that can process up to 96 RNA samples each in less than two hours, compared to the manual process that usually takes four to six hours.
It also has two LightCycler 480 Instrument II that can amplify and analyze a total of 184 samples in 90 minutes. The construction of the laboratory started on June 1, with the first swab sample processed on June 21.
GMCAC Chief Executive Advisor Andrew Acquaah-Harrison said that the additional testing capacity and quick turnaround time of 24 hours of the MCIA laboratory will help support the government in bringing Filipino OFWs and seafarers home.
“This will also push for the growth of our domestic traffic once travel restrictions by the local government units (LGUs) are lifted,” Harrison added.
The strategy to build a COVID-19 PCR testing laboratory at the airport came from the vision of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to enhance the capacity of the health sector, and reduce the time taken for arriving passengers to obtain their test results, Harrison bared.
Meanwhile, MCIA has streamlined protocols for international arrivals with online registration, PCR swab testing, and confirmed hotel accommodation from all arriving passengers.
Based on the approved process, all arriving international flight passengers must register via the Passenger Arrival Registration Form on the MCIA website beginning July 15.
All registered passengers will then receive a unique Travel Reference Number (TRN) required during the verification process upon arrival at MCIA. Once the e-verification process is completed, passengers can proceed to Quarantine and Immigration and undergo swab testing.
Swab sampling takes place at an isolated portion of MCIA’s Terminal 2 (T2) Arrival Reclaim Hall with 12 testing booths and a one-stop shop registration counter for the different government agencies such as the DOH, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Passengers with negative results will receive a copy of their test results via email from DOH within 24 hours, while passengers that test positive for the COVID-19 virus will be taken care of directly by DOH.
According to MCIA and GMCAC officials, the 24-hour test result delivery allows both passengers and government agencies, such as OWWA, to minimize the cost of hotel accommodation as isolation while waiting for the test results.
“When it became clear that testing capability was going to be a prerequisite for the resumption of international travel, we immediately embarked on the ambitious project of putting up the fastest built and accredited molecular laboratory with the capability to do mass testing and generate results in the quickest possible time,” said Steve Dicidican, general manager and CEO of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA).
Dicdican said that the airport will not profit a single centavo from the laboratory because it has been envisioned to be its contribution to the government’s effort to bring home the stranded Filipinos.