Know COVID testing protocol of destination country, Nograles reminds

Published October 25, 2020, 1:24 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Filipinos planning to travel abroad should know the coronavirus testing protocol of the country of destination and comply with its health requirements, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles

Nograles issued the reminder after admitting the government lifted the antigen testing requirement for outbound Filipino travelers since the country was not yet ready to implement such diagnostic test.

“Dati may antigen, ngayon wala ng antigen pero ang bottomline doon is alamin mo ano ang requirement nung country of destination. Kung sabi niya PCR ang kinakailangan, kailangan mo magpa-PCR muna kasi requirement niya ‘yun (Before there was antigen testing requirement, now there is none. But the bottomline is you must know the requirement of the country of destination. If it require PCR testing, you must undergo PCR testing since it is required),” Nograles said during a forum on Facebook Saturday.

“Pag tayo babiyahe sa receiving country, tanungin mo, alamin mo ano ba ang requirements ng receiving country, ano ang restrictions ng receiving country, ano requirements kung mag-test doon o dito (When we travel abroad, better ask, know the requirements of the receiving country, the restrictions of the country, if the testing is required there or here),” he added.

Last Oct. 16, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) lifted the ban on non-essential trips of Filipinos effective Oct.21 but imposed certain conditions for travelers. Travelers are required to present confirmed round-trip tickets, travel and health insurance, and a declaration recognizing the risks including trip delays. The government also required Filipinos to take an antigen test 24 hours before departure that clears them of such illness.

But on Oct. 23, the task force changed its mind and removed the antigen testing requirement for outbound Filipino travelers. In Resolution No. 80, a negative COVID-19 test must instead be taken by the Filipinos “whenever required by the country of destination or the airline.” 

Nograles explained that the antigen testing is no longer required since “no one was ready to implement” such test. The government earlier initiated a pilot study of antigen testing, that detects viral proteins from a swab sample, in Baguio City which reopened to select tourists.

“‘Yung antigen tinanggal na natin kasi hindi pa handa (We removed the antigen testing because we are not ready) No one was ready to implement the antigen tapos marami na na umalis (and many people already wanted to travel abroad),” he said.

The government has gradually eased travel restrictions to boost the economy after the country plunged into recession in the second quarter. The sluggish economy came following months of strict lockdown that crippled businesses and displaced many workers.