BORACAY ISLAND–Business magnate Henry Chusuey, who operates a chain of hotels in Boracay island, is pushing for the Covid-19 antigen test to replace the current RT-PCR test so as to unburden local tourists coming to the island.
Chusuey aired the proposition during the news conference today hosted by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
Roque is in Boracay to help in the campaign to encourage local tourists to visit the island.
“The island is not only as beautiful as before but is Covid-free, which makes it the best destination in this time of a pandemic,” he averred.
“The situation in Boracay opened my eyes to the problems of our economy and tourism. Because of the pandemic, a lot of workers on the island have been affected, so I am here under the President’s order to support the initiatives to open our economy and tourism,” he said.
In forwarding the idea of piloting an antigen test in Boracay, Chusuey said that, although the island has been declared open since October 1, tourists are discouraged to go there due to the delayed release of their RT-PCR test result, not to mention the expense of getting tested.
An antigen test is used to determine current or active infections among patients. A swab sample is collected to test a person under monitoring for COVID-19 in a process similar to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test. It has only about 4-6 hours turnaround time for release of results unlike the RT-PCR test, which can take up to three days to process.
“Especially now that tourism is not essential, the test will help unburden tourists from the prohibitive cost of a COVID test and encourage them to visit the island,” Chusuey said, adding “The more tourists, the more employment.”
The Ilonggo-Chinese businessman and philanthropist appealed for government to seriously consider his proposal on behalf of resort owners who would like to go back to regular business and employ additional workers.
“The workers need to go back to earning their livelihood, but with few tourist arrivals, how is that possible?” he said.
Chusuey operates the Hennan chain of hotels in Boracay. He claimed, though, that due to the pandemic, only 20 of the 1,600 rooms are occupied since the island re-opened for tourists on October 1.
“Of the 2,200 employees we have, only 100 are active,” he added.
“Hopefully, Boracay could be a pilot for the antigen test to make it easier for tourists to come to the island,” Chusuey said.
Roque, however, said that the Department of Health (DOH) has already chosen Baguio City for the pilot use of rapid antigen testing, following recommendations to study its diagnostic capacity to screen for COVID-19 cases.
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the DOH preferred Baguio City because of its model governance in managing the spread and containment of the coronavirus that includes aggressive and organized contact tracing—among the best in the country–while at the same time increasing the operational efficiency of its health management system.
“The pilot in Baguio City will help us assess whether rapid antigen tests can be adopted for official use or not. It will also determine if these tests are best performed when a person is still in the early stages of infection,” Duque said in an earlier press statement.