Free COVID-19 Test for Returning OFWs to Continue, No Testing Required for Those From Low-Risk Countries

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returning to the Philippines have been assured that the government “will continue to render” free testing for coronavirus upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Transportation Undersecretary Raul Del Rosario, who oversees the Task Group on Management of Returning Overseas Filipinos (TGMROF), made the statement amid circulating “stories on social media about the resumption of the swabbing by Red Cross.”

“As head of TGMROF, pending official instructions from the NTF (National Task Force) Chair, the government will continue to render free RT-PCR related services to all returning OFWs. As what we have collectively done, we shall continue to aspire to give the most efficient service to these OFWs,” Del Rosario said.

He also clarified on Tuesday that it’s not true that returning overseas Filipinos are persuaded to opt to be tested by private providers for RT-PCR test upon arriving in the country for higher fees.

Returning OFWs, he said, are not charged unless they request to be tested in a private laboratory designated at the airport for faster turnaround and clearance which costs P4,000.

The two private laboratories also cater to non-OFW returnees for the same price.

Meanwhile, returning Filipinos from countries classified with low- to middle-prevalence of COVID-19 are no longer required to undergo coronavirus testing, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

In an online media forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said returning Filipinos from low-risk countries will not be required to undergo testing at points of entry, provided that they would strictly follow the minimum health standards and pass the symptoms screening.

She noted that the identification of low- to middle-prevalence countries will be based on the World Health Organization (WHO) weekly classification.

The Health official explained that the move is meant to “rationalize the protocols” as returning Filipinos are being tested multiple times before they can enter their home provinces.

“Our experts agreed and they are saying na lahat naman ng tao na darating especially from those areas na wala naman talagang ganun na transmission, ito ngang low- to mid- prevalence, the probability that this individual to have this certain disease ay maliit lang,” Vergeire said.

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