PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night threatened to remove air and sea port officials who allow travellers to enter the country even without meeting safety requirements and complying with health protocols on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The President, in his weekly public address, said there are only a “few” who are involved and he would replace the erring personnel and transfer them to the provinces if he gets wind of even just one incident.
“There are reports that some people are skipping, slipping through with the help of airport personnel and in vessels. I say this now as I have said it before: Do not do it,” he warned.
Duterte said erring air and sea port officials may suffer the fate of 42 immigration personnel who were dismissed last year for their alleged involvement in the pastillas scam where immigration shortcuts were facilitated to allow for the easy entry of foreigners, especially Chinse.
“Didn’t you notice that all immigration personnel, about 42 of them and many more, were dismissed from their job? You want me to repeat it?” he said.
The President also cautioned travelers against using fake COVID-19 test results to enter the country.
In the same public address, Duterte said he favors the use of a saliva-based coronavirus testing, which the Philippine Red Cross said has a 99 percent accuracy rate, because the nasal swab testing is painful and uncomfortable.
“They said there is a new testing method… Senator and PRC chairman Richard Gordon said saliva tests are 99 percent accurate. Then let’s use that,” he said.
Testing czar Vince Dizon, in a briefing on Tuesday, said the saliva tests are less invasive, are cost effective and yield faster results. A saliva test, which requires a person to spit instead of having their nose or throat swabbed under a RT-PCR test, costs between P1,500 to P2,500, which is lower than the P3,800 to P5,000 RT-PCR swab test scheme.
Dizon urged the evaluation team of the Department of Health (DOH) to hasten its assessment and come up with its decision on the use of saliva test in the country so the government could shift its testing strategy.
Also, Dizon said the DOH has already released its guidelines on the use of pool testing, which is cheaper and faster, in areas and sectors with low risk of infection like overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and travelers.
Dizon said arrival data of travelers and OFWs between December 22 to January 3 showed that only 74 of 3,684 travelers who arrived in the country tested positive for COVID-19, which he said accounts for only a 2 percent positivity rate.
The country had banned travels from 21 countries since December 22 to prevent the entry of a new COVID variant which was first discovered in the United Kingdom.