A HIGH-RANKING official of the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao International Airport) Monitoring Team announced that it will be accepting Covid-19 test results from saliva tests of passengers coming to Davao City, but it must be coming from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
Airport Monitoring Team Head Generose Tecson told SunStar Davao on Thursday morning, February 25, that PRC is currently the only testing facility that has been accredited to conduct saliva tests to detect Covid-19 patients.
"That's why we don't accept any other saliva test, except from PRC, because it's not as simple as spitting," Tecson said in a phone interview.
She said test results must be taken within 72 hours, similar to the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Tecson said they started to accept saliva tests after receiving a phone call from City Health Office (CHO) Acting Head Dr. Ashley Lopez regarding the approval of saliva testing in the country, as proposed by PRC.
The official, based on the information she received, said the process of saliva testing is "not easy" compared to the current RT-PCR testing.
Although she said arriving passengers are also advised to submit their test using the RT-PCR, which is still considered as the standard in detecting the Covid-19 virus.
Tecson said to date, no air passenger has submitted a test result from the saliva test.
The Department of Health (DOH) has approved the PRC proposal to use saliva tests to detect Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 on January 23, 2021. This type of test, however, will be allowed only in PRC laboratories for now.
In a televised public briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have informed the PRC that they can already use the saliva as an alternative specimen.
She said the Covid-19 laboratory experts panel (CLEP) gave a favorable recommendation to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III.
"They presented their results to our CLEP and it was agreed by the CLEP that they can already be used," Vergeire said.
She said the CLEP is still waiting for the parallel study by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on saliva testing before allowing its full use.
"The CLEP wants to wait for the result of the validation tests of the RITM before it can be used in other laboratories," said Vergeire.
The PRC sought DOH approval of the saliva testing for Sars-CoV-2 in late 2020. Under this, people need only to spit into a sterile tube and bring it to the laboratory for processing.
The machines used for RT-PCR testing are also the ones needed for the saliva test.
In an RT-PCR test, the virus is detected in nasopharyngeal specimens.
The Davao City government started requiring negative RT-PCR results to all air passengers traveling to Davao City beginning July 2020 due to the increasing Covid-19 cases in the city attributed to arriving air passengers.
On February 5, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat bared that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the Davao City Government's request to impose a test-before-travel requirement to all passengers arriving at the Davao Airport.
Puyat said the city requested the assistance of the DOT in negotiating with the IATF for the imposition of mandatory RT-PCR testing for all travelers before they arrive at the airport.
On January 14, the city suspended the free RT-PCR testing at the Davao Airport and will only resume once the Los Amigos Covid-19 Laboratory goes into full operation.
Arriving passengers with negative RT-PCR tests are prioritized to exit the airport after airport personnel completes the checking of their health declaration forms (HDFs).
Non-Davao City flight passengers may still exit the airport even without the RT-PCR negative test as long as their LGUs will fetch them and they can present other needed documents. Neighboring local government units (LGUs) are urged to pick up their locally stranded individuals (LSIs) at the DIA.
For Davao City residents without negative RT-PCR test results to show, HDFs and other necessary documents will be checked. They must follow the requirements and will be given their health monitoring forms since they need to check-in with their Barangay Health Emergency Response Team. The 14-day home quarantine is mandatory. (RGL with reports from SunStar Philippines)