LGUs can impose saliva-based COVID-19 test as pre-travel requirement

Travelers could have the option to take a saliva-based coronavirus test prior to domestic travel in case a local government unit (LGU) of destination decides to keep such health protocol, a Palace official said Thursday.

(Photo by Jansen Romero / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said while the government pandemic task force has approved the uniform travel protocols across the country, the LGUs still have the discretion to impose testing for visitors, that will be limited to reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test through nasal swab or saliva.

"Ang general rule is no testing required. Ang exception na hinihingi ng LGUs ay pagbigyan sila ng kumbaga ng pagkakataon o karapatan na mag-require ng testing before flying (The exception asked by the LGUs is give them an opportunity or right to require testing before flying)," Nograles said during a televised press briefing Thursday, March 4.

If the LGUs decide to keep the testing protocol, Nograles said the travelers may be asked to present a negative PCR test result.

"Kapag sinabi ng LGU na kailangan pa rin, then it has to be RT-PCR, wala nang iba. Wala na iyong rapid test, wala na iyong antigen, hindi na kailangan iyon (When the LGUs decides testing must stil be required, then it has to be RT-CR. Nothing else. There will be no more rapid test, no more antigen test. Those are not needed anymore)," he said.

"It’s RT-PCR before travel. Pero papayag rin po ng saliva testing mula sa Red Cross (But saliva testing administered by Red Cross may be allowed)," he added.

Nograles explained that they have allowed the saliva testing administered by the Philippine Red Cross since it still employs the RT-PCR technique. Such diagnostic test, considered cheaper than the standard swab test, also secured an approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

"Para maliwanag, para wala na 'yung iba't-ibang testing. Basta kung kailangan ng testing, it's RT-PCR before the travel pero pwede saliva test ng Red Cross (To be clear, there won't be other forms of testing. If testing will be required, it's RT-PCR before the travel. Saliva test by the Red Cross is also allowed)," he said.

The Palace official made the statement following the confusion arising from the common protocols approved by the IATF that modified the rules on testing and quarantine procedures for domestic travel.

Under the IATF resolution, testing will no longer be mandatory for travelers unless required by the local government unit of destination. Quarantine is no longer required unless the traveler shows symptoms of the coronavirus illness. Travelers are also no longer required to get a health certificate and travel authority.

The latest guidelines aim to facilitate safe and smooth travel of people as many tourist destinations have started to reopen doors to visitors. The government has gradually relaxed movement restrictions, including domestic travel, in a bid to revive economic growth during the pandemic.