MANILA, Philippines — It is only a matter of time before many travelers will have access to a cheaper, non-invasive coronavirus testing.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, January 25, approved the RT-PCR saliva testing for COVID-19 after the successful pilot testing conducted by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) yielded 98.11% accuracy.
In a press briefing last Saturday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergaire said that the saliva test will initially be administered by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) laboratories for now because its result will have to be validated by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
The RT-PCR test is currently considered the standard test by the health department. It is, however, relatively not cheap with price ranging from P3,800 to P5,000. It can also be painful as it is administered orally or nasally.
The saliva test, on the other hand, is reportedly cheaper at P1,500 to P2,000. Health workers will also be less at risk as there will be no direct contact. A suspected case will only have to spit his saliva to the vial with no required contact with the health worker.
This is good news for many travelers and the travel and tourism sector as well as the airline industry.
AirAsia Philippines Spokesperson Steve Dailisan said, “This will definitely positively increase the appetite of air travelers, especially for AirAsia leisure destinations such as Boracay and Bohol that require RT-PCR test.”
The airline’s partner diagnostic laboratory, Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory (PADLab), is now in the process of securing formal endorsement from DOH to facilitate the saliva test very soon.
On May 8, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory for their COVID-19 laboratory developed test (LDT), which had been previously added to the high complexity molecular-based LDT “umbrella” EUA, to permit testing of samples self-collected by patients at home using the Spectrum Solutions LLC SDNA-1000 Saliva Collection Device. This involved collecting saliva samples from home.
On the other hand, Philippine leading carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB) announced today that it is introducing COVID Protect, its newest add-on to Travelsure, to give travelers peace of mind when flying during this time. This upgrade, which will cover COVID-related hospitalization and treatments, is timely as the carrier aims to provide more passenger options as it prioritizes everyJuan’s health and safety.
With COVID Protect, guests traveling who test positive for COVID-19 will get up to P1 million coverage for hospitalization and medical expenses. This upgrade to the airline’s comprehensive travel insurance plan may be availed by all passengers flying to and from all of the airline company’s domestic and international destinations for as low as P270. Coverage begins on the date of departure from origin and ends two hours upon arrival back at origin, with a maximum travel duration of 30 consecutive days.
COVID Protect is underwritten by Insurance Company of North America (a Chubb Company). Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company.
“We are very pleased to launch the CEB Travelsure COVID Protect in line with our commitment to restart travel and tourism safely and sustainably. With COVID Protect, guests will be able to travel more confidently as they are assured of coverage, especially if they have essential travel scheduled,” said Candice Iyog, CEB Vice President for Marketing and Customer Experience.
Passengers can easily avail of this offer when booking flights on the CEB website, while existing Travelsure insured passengers can simply purchase the COVID Protect add-on up to two hours prior their flight via the ‘Manage Booking’ portal on the Cebu Pacific website. Chubb also offers a 24/7 Emergency Assistance Hotline, while claims may be filed online.
TravelSure is the airline’s comprehensive travel insurance plan which provides extensive trip protection with coverage of costs related to having injuries, illnesses, loss of personal belongings, trip cancellations, emergency assistance, and other unforeseen travel circumstances (subject to the full terms and conditions of the Group Policy).
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