Health expert opposes waiving swab test as travel requirement for fully vaccinated individuals

Published July 6, 2021, 2:26 PM

by Gabriela Baron

Former task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said the new protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for fully vaccinated individuals traveling within the Philippines is “too premature.”


In an interview with CNN Philippines on Tuesday, July 6, Leachon reiterated the importance of testing.

“If we remove the negative RT-PCR test — which is our weakest link — we will decrease the number of people we are testing. The virus may spread, especially from those who are from the countryside going to the National Capital Region or it may cause problems to areas that still have high cases of COVID-19,” Leachon said in Filipino.

“It’s a good move for the future, but I think the measure is too premature given that our countryside in this interzonal travel has a higher reproduction number and positivity rate,” he added.

The health expert said the positivity rate in the country is still high at 12 percent. The World Health Organization’s positivity benchmark is at 5 percent.

Leachon said the “risk is still there” given the country’s low vaccination rate and limited vaccine supply and COVID-19 tests.

“Knowing that our vaccination coverage is still low at three percent, our vaccines may not address other variants, and our lack of genomic surveillance studies, it’s difficult to ease guidelines yet. I think we should not waive testing in fully vaccinated individuals,” he added.

On July 4, the IATF announced that interzonal travelers who are fully vaccinated are now only required to present proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination instead of swab test results.