RT-PCR or antigen test required in city
The city government of Baguio has required anew a negative Covid-19 test result from tourists on March 19, two weeks after most local government units removed the requirement in compliance with the uniform travel guidelines issued by the national Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Diseases.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong announced the change in the guideline following another spike in Covid-19 cases within the city and neighboring provinces, and after initially granting the request of the managements of three hotels in the city to allow them to require their guests a negative antigen result prior to entry within their premises.
The city, along with other areas, experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past recent weeks after the easing of travel protocols, going as high over 100 positive cases in a day for two days, bringing the city’s total number of cases to 6,627 as of March 17.
Atty. Althea Alberto of the City Mayor’s Office said all travelers who are non-residents again need to present a negative result of antigen or RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to entry to the city or they can have themselves undergo antigen test at the central triage unit.
The test result is valid during their stay in the city. Non-residents should still register at the Baguio Visita online platform and secure a QR code or tourist pass at least 24 hours prior to travel. Registration for non-residents at the checkpoint is no longer allowed so as not to overwhelm checkpoint and triage personnel, which process a large volume of travelers especially on weekends.
Residents, on the other hand, also have the option to undergo either antigen or RT-PCR, or the artificial intelligence X-ray scanner available on March 22 at the central triage, all valid for 30 days.
Registration to the HDF (health declaration form) and presentation of a QR code at the checkpoint is also still required, and allowed onsite as long as residents, including private APORs, are able to show proof of residence or travel or work documents showing their business in the city.
Exempted from undergoing test as per IATF Resolution 98-A are government APORs who are coming to Baguio for official duty.
The antigen test, according to Alberto, is being adopted as a test mode aside from RT-PCR because it is cheaper, has shorter turn-around time, and proven effective.
Joma Rivera of the City Tourism Office said the city has received a subsidy from the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) for the purchase of 12,000 antigen test kits for tourists and available while the supply last to help lower the cost of the test.
City Budget Officer Leticia Clemente said the city made it a policy to procure and administer the antigen test along with the TPB subsidy as a Covid transmission prevention response both for residents and tourists at a reduced amount, P350 for residents and P500 for non-residents, from the previous P1,300 per test.
The city government has acknowledged if there are some frustrations over the changing policies, but explained the changes are done to respond to the unstable Covid-19 situation.
City Health Services Officer Rowena Galpo said the city and the public need to learn to adjust to the changing Covid situation.
“This is part of having a pandemic, where situations vary. Kung ano ang sitwasyon, we make applicable policies. If it no longer works, then we need to change it. Everyone has to learn to adjust,” Galpo said.
Alberto added, “We understand the frustration over the changing guidelines but we have to consider that the Covid situation also changes from time to time. It goes up and down, so we have to adjust accordingly. It’s a hammer and dance situation.”
She added the city government appeals to the public to respect the city’s entry protocols, as it is constantly working with the Baguio City Police Office and the Public Order and Safety Division on how to improve monitoring of travelers. – Hanna C. Lacsamana