Philippines eyes pilot study of saliva-based Covid-19 test for tourists

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) will soon launch a pilot study of saliva-based Covid-19 testing for screening tourists, Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told senators on Monday during a hearing on her department’s proposed 2021 budget.

Puyat noted that a survey previously released by the DOT showed that 77 per cent of its respondents would want to travel but could not afford to undergo reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

So the DOT started looking for alternatives as effective but as the RT-PCR test but “more affordable.”

It would do pilot studies on both antigen and saliva-based testing. Puyat did not indicate the area that would be part of the pilot studies. The saliva-based tests will involve the collection of samples of a patient’s saliva.

The DOT will shoulder the cost of the pilot testing, according to Puyat. At present, the DOT is conducting a pilot study on the use of antigen tests to detect coronavirus infections in Baguio City. The city, situated in the Philippines’ northern Luzon island, is one of the tourist sites that have so far reopened.

In the Baguio, travellers to the city were given the antigen test and RT-PCR test. The results of the two tests were then compared.

Senator Nancy Binay said the DOT could tap the Department of Health (DOH) for help in shouldering the cost of the pilot testing.

Binay noted that 10 billion pesos (S$278 million) had been earmarked for testing under the DOH as provided by the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

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