The Department of Health (DOH) Region 7, in partnership with Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas and Project Balik Buhay, officially launched free swab testing to Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) at Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) international arrival area.
DOH-7 chief pathologist and spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said that the free swabbing and rt-PCR testing for all OFWs and returning residents arrivals on international flights at MCIA started last March 31.
“This move to test upon arrival and for free unburdens the OWWA. (It) also (keeps them) from spending so much on their hotel stays,” said Dr. Loreche.
“This is in response to the directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the fast-tracking of the testing and the release of results for the OFWs and returning residents,” said Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino.
This move will allow OFWs and returning residents to be able to go home quickly instead of spending time longer at the quarantine facilities as the President had ordered, Secretary Dino added.
Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong Go’ also welcomed President Duterte’s directive on fast-tracking the testing of returning OFWs.
The senator has continuously made efforts to take care of OFWs. In fact, he has proposed the establishment of a separate department for OFWS, an urgent need highlighted amid the pandemic.
So far, nearly half a million OFWs have been repatriated to the Philippines due to the pandemic.
The senator had filed Senate Bill No. 1949, otherwise known as the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) Act of 2020, which aims to address bureaucratic barriers to make delivery of services more efficient and responsive for OFWs, other Filipinos overseas and their families.
At the same time, testing returning residents would also help lower cases in Cebu and other areas, he added.
“We hope this will continue to help decline our cases in Cebu and the whole of Visayas since MCIA is one of the major aviation hub,” said Sec. Dino.
Currently there are 11 testing booths put up at the international arrival area of MCIA.
Dr. Loreche said that a team from DOH7 is assigned to the airport to conduct testing for arriving passengers.
As of April 2, DOH-7 team has taken 1,061 swab tests. Of this number, 243 were swabbed on, 364 on April 1, and 499 on April 2.
She added that once the passenger will test negative, they can return home likewise if they test positive, they will be turned over to the local government unit (LGUs) Temporary Treatment Mega Facility and Isolation Facility.
The results of the swab tests will be released within 24 to 48 hours.
DOH-7 is also seeking sponsorship for test kits and consumables from the private sector so they could attain ‘operational sustainability,’ Dr. Loreche said.
Meanwhile, the Lapu-Lapu City government also seeks a similar service for domestic arrivals.
“Mayor Ahong (Chan) of Lapu-Lapu City submitted letter of request for domestic arrivals but we will have to meet with our team on Monday to discuss this,” said Dr. Loreche. /PR