World Health Organization (WHO) Philippine Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe warned the government against their plans to remove mandatory COVID-19 tests for domestic tourists.
Considering the existence of new variants and high cases of infection in some areas of the country, the WHO official said the decision to remove COVID testing must be “carefully calibrated”.
“From this scenario, a very careful decision needs to be made, whether allowing people to travel without testing (should be made). But that has to be very carefully assessed (before) decision can be made because as you know, the process is a risk-based process that needs to be carefully evaluated frequently,” Abeyasinghe said.
In a bid to revive the domestic tourism industry, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III previously revealed its plans to harmonize travel requirements, including the removal of swab testing.
The swab tests should be limited to persons who have symptoms, were exposed to infected individuals, and those who had the disease themselves, the DILG official explained.
"Travelers will be required to undergo clinical testing at the terminal of origin and terminal of destination, instead of swab tests."
According to studies done by the Department of Health (DOH) and is believed by the DILG Official, strict observance of minimum health standards is enough to prevent the spread of the virus.
If approved by local chief executives, the proposal to harmonize the travel requirements including the removing of swab tests for incoming domestic tourists as a pre-requisite to travel would be presented to the IATF for implementation.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat supported the proposal, citing the results of a recent survey where 81 percent said varying travel rules make travel most inconvenient.
“The DOT has long been advocating for the simplification of travel requirements as this is critical in making domestic tourism work,” Puyat said.