OCTA Research opposes no-testing rule for tourists

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — An expert that monitors and evaluates COVID-19 trends said Tuesday local governments must still impose the testing requirement for tourists, underscoring its importance in helping prevent the spread of the virus.

“Kahit anong lalawigan o siyudad, kailangan talaga natin ng testing … dahil marami sa kababayan natin ay asymptomatic," Dr. Butch Ong of the OCTA Research said in a briefing.

[Translation: We need testing to be imposed by provinces and cities because many of our fellowmen turn out to be asymptomatic.]

“Iyong paglipat ng isang tao from one area to another na asymptomatic could become a problem kapag mataas ang viral load ng traveler na iyon,” he added.

[Translation: A person’s movement from one area to another could become a problem if that traveler has a high viral load.]

Dr. Ong’s statement follows the decision of the Cebu government to drop the swab test requirement for visitors entering the province. According to an executive order signed by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia on Monday, tourists are only required to present a valid medical certificate obtained seven days prior to their arrival, proof of pre-booking at a resort or hotel that is duly accredited by the provincial task force, and pass health screening at their points of departure and arrival.

The expert noted the general trend in new COVID-19 cases in Cebu is on the rise, but at a “slow” pace. Ong said the province’s R naught or reproduction rate of the virus is at 1.5. R naught represents the number of people who may be infected by a confirmed case. Ideally, this should be one or less, as anything higher means significant community transmission.

Ong also said Cebu’s positivity rate is at 15%. This means 15 of every 100 people tested are positive for COVID-19, he added. But he noted the province’s local health system still has enough capacity to accommodate COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Aside from Cebu, OCTA Research is also closely monitoring Metro Manila cities, northern areas including Kalinga province and Baguio City due to the spike in the number of infections they have recently recorded.