Swab-upon-arrival rule in Cebu receives support

MEMBERS of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and local chief executives of Cebu and Mandaue cities on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, expressed support for the so-called One-Island policy to swab returning Filipinos upon arrival.

However, Department of Health Central Visayas (DOH 7) spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said this policy should exclude transit passengers and those who are not from Cebu.

She said returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) transiting through Cebu should comply with the national rule of facility-based quarantine for 10 days, swab test on the seventh day, and additional four days of home quarantine, in case of negative result.

Those found positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) will be referred to a quarantine facility for isolation.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, for his part, said he supports the policy, but said the test result must be released immediately.

“That’s also good… I will agree on that as long as the result will be released sooner,” Labella told SunStar Cebu.

Labella also said ROFs with symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) must undergo isolation.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes also expressed support for the policy initiated by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

“We have a similar stand. Being a local chief executive, our main purpose is to avoid inconvenience to Cebuanos,” Cortes said.

One-Island policy

The Cebu Provincial Board, in its regular session, approved an ordinance Monday, May 10, easing the restrictions on inbound international passengers.

The ordinance, introduced by Provincial Board Member John Ismael Borgonia, strengthens Garcia’s Executive Order (EO) 17 that was issued a month ago.

Under Garcia’s EO, repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and ROFs bound for Cebu will be swabbed and tested for Sars-CoV-2 upon arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

They will be released if the result is negative, or brought to a quarantine facility if positive.

Those allowed to go home no longer have to undergo another swab test upon reaching their hometowns.

Garcia anchored her EO on Republic Act No. 7166, or the Local Government Code.

The policy covers the three highly urbanized cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

Cortes said the residents on the island of Cebu must come together as one during this pandemic.

He said the drop in Covid-19 cases on the island is a clear manifestation of the unity of Cebuanos.


The policy also gained support from government officials during the emergency RIATF meeting on the same day.

At the meeting, DOH 7 Regional Director Jaime Bernadas said Covid-19 cases are normally detected upon arrival of international passengers.

“After a consultation with the tri-cities (Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu), so that this will be a One-Island, Swabbing-Upon-Arrival policy. With the reasons and data we have, (we found) that they (officials) kept recording more positive cases upon arrival than on the fifth day and more so after the seventh day,” Bernadas said.

Others who attended the meeting were the regional officials of the Bureau of Quarantine and Department of the Interior and Local Government.

At the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, existing arrival protocols will be maintained despite the threat posed by the Sars-CoV-2 variant from India, said Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan.

He said arriving OFWs and ROFs will still be required to undergo quarantine regardless of swab test results. They will be monitored by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team.

Upon arrival, passengers will be quarantined in a hotel while waiting for their test result. Those found negative for the virus will be allowed to go home.

“We are not worried because the passengers will be closely monitored,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said he was still waiting for IATF approval of his plan to reopen the City to tourists who are fully vaccinated and who can present a negative swab test result within 72 hours prior to arrival.

“We will try to implement a bubble in Lapu-Lapu City and Olango Island,” he said. (ANV / KFD / JJL / GCM)