TEST AND WAIT. Davao City implements the ‘test and wait’ mechanism for returning residents to further limit the possibility of new infections in the city. The city government has also asked the national Inter-Agency Task Force to put in place several measures to further contain the potential spread of the virus among infected returning residents. (Photo courtesy of Davao City Information Office)
DAVAO CITY — Mayor Sara Z. Duterte is confident the city government could get a positive response from the national Inter-Agency Task Force for The Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) regarding her request for safer repatriation measures for Returning OFWs (ROFs) and locally stranded individual (LSIs).
“We have a point person who does the follow up to know if there is a response to our letter; hopefully, we can get a response because our Covid cases are increasing every day,” Mayor Sara said in the vernacular during an interview with Davao City Disaster Radio on Wednesday (July 15).
In her July 14 letter addressed to OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, Mayor Sara requested that OFWs and LSI present a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) result taken within 48 hours of departure before boarding by land, sea, or air.
“We saw that their RT-PCR were one week or two weeks before departure the doctors will not accept it because there are many circumstances that could possibly happen in two weeks before departure,” she said.
The mayor also requested that OWWA flights be scheduled regularly so that receiving LGUs can properly plan for the pick-up of their residents.
In this manner, no OFWs are left waiting for hours or even days for their pick up; and in cases where the receiving LGUs are more than five hours away by land transport from the Davao International Airport (DIA), OWWA or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should provide transportation to immediately ferry the passengers to their LGUs.
This will ensure acceptance of the returning residents as well as prevent being stranded at the DIA (Davao International Airport), Mayor Sara said.
“We asked OWWA if they could set regular flight schedules so the LGUs could prepare ahead of time. As it is now, the term “bampira flights” is coined here in the city because suddenly we are informed a flight is arriving in the middle of the night,” she said.
Likewise, Duterte said OWWA was also asked to inform LGUs ahead of arriving passengers from their localities, especially in places far from the airport so that transportation could readily be arranged to reduce the waiting time among returning residents at the airport.
Mayor Sara hopes the three measures will “take effect immediately.”
In her letter to Galvez, she also requested the implementation of the following measures to prevent the further spread of the virus:
▪ Regular commercial flight passengers to the Davao International Airport must present upon check-in at the airport of origin a negative RT-PCR taken within 24 hours from departure time.
▪ Discontinue carrying Davao Region LSIs in sweeper flights to other airports other than the Davao International Airport.
▪ Philippine Air Force planes to Davao City must carry personnel only and must temporarily stop from accommodating civilians unless it is an emergency.
▪ All individuals exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms should not be allowed to board any flight or vessel.
Mayor Sara noted that a large number of active Covid-19 cases in the city within the July 5-13 period have a travel history from Manila.
She hopes OWWA and the national IATF will act on her request to help slow down the Covid-19 cases in the city and the entire Mindanao in general, “without giving prejudice to the need for the OFWs or LSIs to return home.”
‘Test and wait’
Meanwhile, Mayor Sara also announced the implementation of the “test and wait” scheme for returning Davao City residents, OFWs, and LSIs.
Under the system, ROFs and LSIs would be tested right away for Covid-19 immediately upon their arrival. Then they will wait at the designated holding room at the same facility for the results.
“ It means that we test them and let them wait in a holding area. When the results come out, they can go home for home (quarantine),” she said in vernacular.
She added that the waiting time for the test result will take a maximum of 14-15 hours, which she said was “ way better than the regular 14-day quarantine before a returning resident could go home to their families.
If the results turn out positive, a returning resident would be brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the main referral facility for Covid-19 in Davao Region.
She explained that the “test and wait” mechanism is better compared to the previous practice in which returning Davao City residents are tested upon arrival and immediately sent home for home quarantine or to a quarantine facility once they tested positive. (With reports from Davao City Information Office)