The Philippine Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is looking at the possibility of removing the COVID-19 test as one of the requirements for traveling domestically, in a bid to help the local tourism industry recover.
“We’re looking at the possibility that testing is no longer needed and this has been cleared with the Department of Health,” DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo today in an interview.
“In the past, the Department of Health said that testing is OK if you show symptoms caused by the virus. Second, if you have been exposed [to the virus] or you are a patient of COVID-19, testing is mandatory,” he added in English and Filipino.
“But if you haven’t been exposed, testing is not mandated. According to our epidemiologists, as long as you follow the minimum health standards…there’s a 95% chance you won’t get infected,” he said.
Most areas, such as tourist spots like Boracay and Baguio, require a traveler to present a negative COVID-19 swab test prior to arrival. Testing is typically paid for by the traveler himself, except in Boracay, where it is subsidized by the government. Officials have said that the cost of testing is dissuading budget travelers from visiting, making it harder for businesses such as hotels and restaurants to recover from the crisis.
Prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry contributed as much as 12.7% to the Philippines’ annual gross domestic product. It has been battered by the health crisis, and millions of Filipino workers have lost their jobs due to international and local travel restrictions.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 563,456 cases recorded as of yesterday. This includes 522,874 recoveries and 12,094 deaths. With the approval and impending arrival of Sinovac’s controversial vaccine, the government is expected to start inoculating Filipinos soon.