MANILA — Iloilo Representative and House Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin advised concerned government agencies not to make drastic decisions over plans to reintroduce mandatory COVID-19 tests for travelers arriving in the country.

“The most that we can request is a PCR test prior to departure. Realistically speaking, we do not have the systems and processes in place, unlike other countries. Even our vaccination certificates and its corresponding IT system are chaotic,” Rep. Garin said.

“Before coming up with a decision on the issue of mandatory testing on travelers from China, our government can first seek some clarification from the World Health Organization and the Chinese Embassy on the real situation,” Garin added as she expressed concern over the confusion brought about by unverified information particularly the fear that the increased number of cases could result in the development of variants of concern.

Garin, a vaccinology expert, clarifies that VOCs (the variant of concern) are unlikely to happen in China given its 95% vaccination coverage.

“We should be more concerned about how to increase our vaccination and booster coverage so as to sustain the initial gains we have,” the former Department of Health Secretary said.

Garin reiterated that there are four (4) benefits of vaccination: 1). prevent deaths 2). reduce severity 3). reduce hospitalization 4). prevent mutation.

VOCs happen among unvaccinated, immunocompromised patients.

If and when the country decides on imposing restrictions, Garin insisted that decisions should be based on science and not because we heed the clamor of other nations, saying closing the doors for China will turn away tourists and investors at a time when the country’s tourism is just recovering.

China and Hongkong used to have mandatory, every three (3) days, free PCR testing, hence the number of cases was regularly updated.

With their current realization that the government spending on this is not anymore necessary citing the more than 85% asymptomatic cases coupled with 2-3 days of recovery of the symptomatic including those with comorbidities, reporting has been affected.

“Let us not lose sight of the current basis for covid protocols and guidelines. We have shifted to deaths and ICU utilization rather than the number of positives.

“Kung ibabase natin sa siyensya, tingnan natin na kung tumataas ang hospital and ICU admissions, then that’s a red flag. Pero kung maraming natatamaan ng COVID pero parang sipon at lagnat lang ay hindi ito alarming. We have more deaths from non- COVID ailments and other problems dahil maraming tao ang hindi na nagpapakonsulta at hindi na umiinom ng kanilang maintenance medicines,” Garin said.

Garin has called on the DOH to brief other NGAs citing the lack of a scientific basis for DOTR’s recommendation.

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