Nalzaro: Gwen is a pacesetter

LAST week, a Cebu City-based company conducted mass testing on its employees using the saliva test. The Philippine National Red Cross (PRC) conducted the test after two of the company’s employees were found positive of Covid-19 via reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

PRC personnel went to the company to gather the specimens. And after 12 hours, the saliva test results came out and another employee was found positive. The positive employee reported to work on the day the results came out only to be told by his supervisor to go home because he was found positive.

Desperate of the result, the employee, a resident of another local government unit (LGU) in Metro Cebu, went home and voluntarily submitted himself to a 14-day quarantine in a facility in his community. But health officials of the LGU did not accept him because, according to them, they do not acknowledge and recognize saliva test results. So, he underwent an RT-PCR test a day after the saliva test. And do you know what the RT-PCR test result was? He was found negative of the virus. So he was not admitted to the quarantine facility. I don’t know if his company management will allow him to report for work today.

This is just one of the so many cases on conflicting results of various Covid-19 tests. Before there was a rapid antigen test where some results came out to be “false positive” and “false negative.” Then there is this RT-PCR test, which sometimes clashes with another RT-PCR test result. Now, there is this saliva test, the result of which does not conform to the RT-PCR test result. Which is which? Can we really rely on and trust the accuracy of the Covid-19 tests? Or is this just business?

Just recently, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia shared an experience of her friend, a ranking judiciary official, who underwent an RT-PCR test, which is a travel requirement, because she was on an emergency trip to Davao City. Because of the official’s connection and the exigency of her trip, she was allowed to travel even without the swab test result. Upon arriving in Davao, she was informed that the result of her swab test here was positive. To be sure, the official underwent another swab test in Davao City and the result was negative.

Even I have doubts on the swab test. That is why when I experienced dry cough and hoarse voice sometime in July last year, I did not submit myself to a Covid-19 test. Rapid test was the most accessible and affordable method then. My doctors just prescribed me medicines for cough and after taking it for four days my cough was gone.

To test if I contracted Covid-19, I tested it in a natural and practical way. I opened a bottle of scotch, smelled it and drank a little. I was still able to smell its aroma and taste it. So it was not Covid because the symptoms of Covid are loss of smell and taste. I did not lose my appetite and, in fact, I ate a lot. I also observed that the people who had close contact with me were all okay and were not infected. Had it been Covid, I would not have been asymptomatic because I have pre-existing ailments. I have hypertension and I am a diabetic. I could have suffered mild or moderate symptoms. But to be sure that I would not infect other people, I filed a leave of absence from my work and isolated myself for 14 days.

That is why I fully agree with Governor Garcia’s stand, which is based on a Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum Order 2020-512 (Revised Omnibus Interim Guidelines on Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment and Reintegration Strategies for Covid-19) that only those with symptoms should be tested and asymptomatic ones should only be quarantined for 10 days without undergoing an RT-PCR test.


The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the uniform travel protocols for LGUs. Under IATF Resolution 101 protocol, travellers need not undergo Covid-19 testing unless required by the LGUs prior to travel. Such testing will be RT-PCR test only.

Meanwhile, travellers will no longer be subjected to quarantine unless they exhibit symptoms at the destination upon arrival. Authorities shall continue to strictly implement the minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and wearing of face masks and face shields across all settings.

Clinical and exposure assessment shall be strictly implemented in all ports while health assessment of passengers, supervised by medical doctors, shall be mandatory upon entry in the port/terminal and exit at point of destination.

You see, Governor Garcia was the first to scrap the RT-PCR test for local tourists visiting the province and now the IATF has decided also to eliminate it as a requirement for travelers entering another LGU. Gwen was the first to open the border with fewer travel restrictions. She is a pacesetter. This only means that the national government has slowly lifted some travel restrictions to revive the economy and we started it here in Cebu.