Lim: The price to pay

·2 min read

Recently, the policy for arriving international passengers in Cebu was to swab upon arrival and release those who test negative into the community on the third day of quarantine. This gave our doctors nightmares.

On the premise that travelers can get infected on the way to our country, it would not be prudent to swab upon arrival as it takes time for the virus to rise to detectable levels.

A first day swab could produce false negatives and allow asymptomatic travelers to slip into our communities. Hence the seventh day swab policy (found to render more accurate results) of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Studies have shown that by the 10th day, transmissibility is low. Hence the 10-day facility-based quarantine period of the IATF, allowing for the remaining four days of quarantine to be done at home.

Cebu’s swab-upon-arrival policy and three-day quarantine period in case of a negative result was, indeed, a dream. But, doctors warned, it could become a nightmare.

Taiwan was touted as a model of Covid-19 containment. But when it shortened its quarantine period for pilots to three days, the Delta variant that is now a variant of great concern globally, slipped into their communities and caused a surge.

The IATF protocols may not sit well with returning Filipinos who wish to immediately reunite with their families but wouldn’t it be a happier reunion if one could do it safely after a 10-day facility-based quarantine?

Cebu has amended its arrival protocols. The swab-upon-arrival policy is still in place but travelers who test negative are now released on the third day to their local government units (LGU) to complete the 14-day quarantine at home or in a facility. A seventh day swab is now also done.

But does everyone sent home to quarantine, comply? Are all LGUs capable of swabbing on the seventh day and monitoring returning Filipinos during the entire quarantine period? Wouldn’t a consistent national policy for arriving international passengers prove simpler?

We want to be prudent as we want to be practical. But there is a price to pay for everything. And the price for keeping the economy going during a pandemic is to strengthen rather than to ease health protocols.

Mask up. Safely distance. Practice hand hygiene. Get vaccinated. Test and quarantine. This is how we keep our borders as well as businesses open.

My fully-vaccinated siblings in the US have asked when they can come. “Tell them not to come. I don’t want to risk getting infected.” Despite his great desire to see them, my 96-year-old father makes this sacrifice knowing he may never see them again.

Most fathers teach their children the value of things. My father taught me there is a price to pay for everything. Happy Father’s Day, Pa.

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