The House of Representatives is pushing through with its “No COVID Test, No Entry” policy for visitors beginning on the resumption of sessions Monday.
A press statement issued by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s office Sunday afternoon bared that the House leadership and secretariat have put in place health and safety measures to protect lawmakers, employees, and guests inside the Batasan complex in Quezon City.
“House Secretary General Jocelia Bighani Sipin said all members and employees reporting for work on Monday are required to undergo the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for COVID-19,” the statement said.
“Speaker Velasco took the lead by having himself tested at the House RT-PCR testing facility last week. Initial testing began on Nov. 11, but was suspended due to typhoon ‘Ulysses.’ Testing will resume on Monday,” it read.
It further stated: “Visitors are also required to undergo COVID-19 antigen testing before they can be granted access to the offices inside the complex.”
Nov. 16 marks Marinduque Rep. Velasco’s first “regular” session day as Speaker of the House. He was officially installed as Speaker last Oct. 13 during a special session, replacing Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano.
The Manila Bulletin earlier acquired in the day a digital copy of a memorandum titled, “Suspension of COVID-19 testing requirement for entry into the buildings of the House of Representatives.” It was signed by Sipin and dated Nov. 12, 2020.
“In view of the unforeseen events brought about by the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses, the requirement to have the appropriate COVID-19 test as prerequisite for entry into the buildings of the House of Representatives under HRep Memorandum Circular No.18-107 (SG) is hereby suspended until further notice,” the one-page memorandum said.
The press statement appears to have lifted the suspension of the test requirement even before House sessions could resume.
A source said that visitors to Batasan are expected to shoulder the cost of the antigen test. Antigen tests are administered either by nasal or throat swabs and can diagnose an active coronavirus infection.
On the other hand, House members and workers – including members of the media – would have to be subjected to an RT-PCR test, which is another swab-based test. It is the most accurate COVID-19 test available in the market and typically doesn’t need to be repeated.
Unlike RT-PCR tests that usually take two days and require the use of a laboratory for completion, an antigen test can be carried out on the spot and yield results in 15 minutes.
“All those entering the House need to wear masks and face shields, pass through thermal scanners and disinfection machines, and observe physical distancing at all times. House members, employees, and guests are required to submit an accomplished health declaration form to inform the chamber of their health status before being allowed to enter its premises,” the statement read.