The House of Representatives wants to accelerate the expanded COVID-19 testing for tourism frontliners as the Department of Tourism seeks to make domestic leisure travel as a huge driver to reboot the country’s tourism.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said he supports the plan of the National Task Force against COVID-19 to expand testing strategy covering non-medical frontliners who are not showing symptoms of the disease.
Cayetano’s comment came in response to a recent “Philippine Travel Survey” conducted by the Tourism department which showed that 77 percent of respondents expressed their willingness to travel to local destinations once restrictions are lifted.
Cayetano also urged the Department of Tourism to work with the Task Force Test, Trace, Treat (T3) and its private sector partners to accelerate the plan to conduct COVID19-testing for the workers in key tourist destinations in the country.
“An aggressive and sustained COVID-19 testing of our tourism frontliners is necessary to facilitate faster recovery in the tourism industry and ensure safe working environment,” said Cayetano.
“With the increased testing capacity in the country, tourism workers can be included in the expanded testing program. This initiative can help build trust and confidence of the domestic tourists as we begin to re-open more economic activities in the next few months,” he added.
The survey noted that “seventy-three of the respondents said that they expect health and safety protocols from travel establishments in this New Normal.”
On July 2, the Inter-Agency Task Force issued Resolution No. 51, approving the National Task Force’s recommendation to further expand the COVID-19 testing strategy in an effort to maximize the 10 million test kits procured by the DOH and the Department of Budget.
“Now is the best time to assess and plan to rebuild our domestic tourism industry. Our tourism sector needs to adapt, innovate and manage the changing requirements of local tourists as we transition to new normal phase,” Cayetano said.
Under the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines or ARISE Philippines Act, mass testing for COVID-19 shall be conducted in areas where higher possibility of transmission of COVID-10 may occur or have occurred.
ARISE which was approved on Third Reading by the House of Representatives before the First Regular Session adjourned seeks to allocate the amount of P10 billion for 2020 and 2021 for the conduct of mass testing.
Under the House-approved measure, mass testing refers to testing of all individuals by methods registered with and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration who are at high 2 risk of contracting COVID-19, more particularly, but not limited to (1) suspect cases, (2) individuals with relevant history of travel or exposure or contact, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic; (3) healthcare workers with possible exposure, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic; (4) workers who are returning to work or to their place of employment; and (5) individuals with co-morbidities like old age, diabetes, hypertension and cancer; and (6) other high-risk population group.
The bill also proposed to put up COVID-testing centers in tourist destinations to be identified by the DOT in partnership with the local government units and Department of Health to stimulate tourism and generate employment.