Cheaper RT-PCR tests urged: DOT

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MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) has asked laboratories to reduce the cost of its RT-PCR testing in order to encourage more people to travel and help the tourism industry recover faster.

The test remains out of reach for travelers on a budget, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, but lowering the charge would encourage domestic travel without jeopardizing the test-before-travel rule.

“I brought this up with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) because a slash in the cost of RT-PCR tests would encourage more travelers to pursue their travel plans,” Romulo-Puyat said Friday.

Besides promoting tourism, Romulo-Puyat claims that the action will benefit returning overseas Filipinos who are required to take such tests upon arrival.

In some high-end medical facilities, the cost of an RT-PCR test ranges from PHP1,500 to PHP5,000, while the IATF-EID has received complaints of some charging up to PHP10,000.

Currently, the price cap for private laboratories is PHP5,000 and PHP3,800 for public laboratories.

The DOT assured health facilities that lowering the prices of its RT-PCR testing would not result in sanctions, citing the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry.

In addition to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), Romulo-Puyat has also asked the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to enable and certify more facilities to do saliva-based RT-PCR tests.

“If more hospitals and laboratories are certified to conduct saliva tests, this cheaper alternative will be more accessible to the public and will be recognized by more LGUs in their entry requirements for local travelers. But needless to say, the facilities conducting such tests should be thoroughly screened. We defer to DOH in addressing this concern,” she said, citing the PHP2,000 saliva test at the PRC.

Moreover, the agency continues to accept qualified travelers who want to take advantage of their subsidized RT-PCR test at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC).

About 41,000 tourists have availed of the subsidy, both at the PCMC and UP-Philippine General Hospital since last year.

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