DOH wants 5th day testing for inbound travelers amid new COVID-19 variants

Bonz Magsambol
DOH wants 5th day testing for inbound travelers amid new COVID-19 variants

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. Repatriated Overseas Filipino workers, who finished the 14-day quarantine, queue at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 in Pasay.

File photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

Health officials say a second round of testing 5 days after the arrival of travelers will provide an additional layer of protection against COVID-19 transmission in the country

The Department of Health (DOH) is pushing for a 5th day swab test for inbound travelers in the country, as an additional safety measure against the spread of COVID-19.

The DOH is expected to recommend this to the government coronavirus task force, a department official said on Thursday, January 21.

In a virtual press briefing on Thursday morning, Dr Alethea de Guzman, medical specialist IV of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, stressed the importance of testing inbound travelers in the country upon arrival so that the government could immediately isolate those who would test positive.

De Guzman said a second round of testing 5 days after the arrival of the travelers would provide an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 transmission in the country.

“On the 5th day, there are individuals who tested negative then turned out to be positive,she explained.

The DOH also explained that the 14-day quarantine period for travelers is really necessary to make sure that the incubation period of the virus will be finished by that time.

“The second swab is just another screening. But the 14-day [quarantine period] is to make sure that our incoming travelers won’t be able to transmit the disease,” the DOH official said.

The World Health Organization defines incubation period as the time between exposure to the virus and symptom onset, which is 5 to 6 days on average, but can be as long as 14 days.

The DOH said that it will discuss this week its recommendation among the members of the technical advisory group of the department.

The DOH proposed the measure after 4 contacts of the Filipino found with the more infectious United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant tested positive days after of their arrival in the country, including his girlfriend who accompanied him in Dubai.

The girlfriend tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival in the country on January 7, but tested positive 6 days later.

Aside from proposing the second swab test, the DOH started its weekly biogenomic surveillance or collection of samples from the vulnerable and at risk sectors that will undergo genome sequencing.

Genomic sequencing is the process of analyzing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases to see whether those who tested positive for COVID-19 have the new variant. 

The DOH earlier said that aside from the UK variant known as B117, it was also monitoring other variants of the virus found in South Africa (501Y.V2) and Malaysia (A701B).

Experts have warned that this new variant of COVID-19 might increase the coronavirus cases in the Philippines by up to 15-fold. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.