DAVAO CITY – A total of 40 passengers, who arrived at the Davao International Airport (DIA) here onboard the same commercial flight from Manila, tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) last Thursday, September 24, according to Mayor Sara Duterte.
In an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Friday, September 25, Duterte disclosed that COVID-19 positive passengers were among the 349 passengers in the flight from Manila.
She said this case only reiterated the need to implement swab testing through reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to lessen the passenger’s period of exposure to a positive case from the time of their arrival at the airport.
“One of the things we are addressing right now is the arrival of several confirmed RT-PCR cases through plane travel. Lately, many positive cases are arriving. We have seen, from the very start, that allowing plane travel will be a problem. The plane travel could spread COVID-19 virus very fast, so we did a ‘test and wait.’ That’s our intervention,” she said.
She said the COVID-19 positive passengers might have been asymptomatic when they arrived in the city since they passed undetected through a thermal scanner of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Duterte said the airport now operates its own RT-PCR laboratory, donated by UNILAB Foundation, Inc. on September 24. The laboratory can process 100 to 110 specimens per eight-hour run, according to her.
She said that the local government was currently improving its facilities so that it could offer more convenience to arriving passengers at the airport, and implement contactless contact-tracing mechanism through QR code system.
“What we need to improve is the convenience of the air passengers. We don’t want them to stay longer there at our airport where they can sit beside a positive case and we don’t know who among them are positive,” she said.
The mayor said she wanted passengers to be brought immediately to the holding facilities after they are processed upon landing, while waiting for the RT-PCR test results.
When the virus test clears them of infection, the passengers may proceed to their destination to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The city government required swab testing for arriving passengers with no “negative” COVID-19 test result through RT-PCR, which was issued within 72 hours before their scheduled departure from the airport of origin.
The DIA has been receiving 500 to 700 daily passengers, way lower compared to 2,000 daily passengers before the outbreak, she said.
From October 7 to 11, she said the local government would test run the QR Code system so that airport workers no longer need to come face-to-face with air travelers, minimizing the risk of exposure to the virus.
“Our frontliners are more exposed because they process passengers from several flights a day. We need to protect our frontiers and finally, we want to look for the positive more quickly,” she said.
Based on the data released by the City Tourism and Operations Office, arrivals in the city through air travel from March to August this year were reported at 128,542, a decrease by 90 percent from 1,349,730 reported for the same period last year.