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Swab test requirement forces 3 DHs to delay flights to HK

30 July 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

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Adelfa Melosantos takes selfie at the Coast Guard testing center at Palacio de Maynila on Roxas Blvd 

A Filipina helper who is supposed to fly to Hong Kong this Sunday, Aug 2, has had her booking cancelled due to uncertainty over whether her swab test result would be available by then.

Another maid scheduled to fly out Saturday realized she had made an error on her swab test personal information form. She also found out too late that she must have other requirements, such as an overseas employment certificate.

A third who is due to fly out tomorrow could have complied with the pre-boarding requirements, but was just told today that her flight had been cancelled.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Cel Lazaro, who is supposed to fly to Hong Kong on Sunday to join her new employer, changed her travel plans after the Medical City Hospital on Ortigas Ave, Pasig City, refused to give her the Php8,150 nucleic acid test today, Jul 30.

That’s because the hospital could not guarantee that the test result could be issued by Aug. 1, and have it certified as required, by a Department of Health doctor, so it would be useless to test her today.

Lazaro said the hospital could only issue a test result between three and five days, which will not allow her to meet Hong Kong’s regulation that the swab test must have been carried out no earlier than 72 hours before her flight.

The new restriction, which took effect on Jul 25, requires all travelers from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh,Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa, to present a negative result from a "nucleic acid" test administered by a laboratory accredited by their respective governments.

The original test result indicating the traveler’s name and identity information (passport or HKID number) should be submitted, along with the laboratory’s accreditation by the government.

On top of this, the traveler must show of a confirmed booking in a Hong Kong hotel for at least 14 days for the mandatory quarantine on arrival.

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But the toughest requirement for most travelers, especially domestic workers who have to travel far to get to Manila international airport, appears to be the 72-hour validity for the test result.

Most hospitals in Manila are unable to release test results earlier than 72 hours, or 3 days, because of heightened demand in the country amid a record rise in the daily Covid-19 tally.
An appointment is needed to get a swab test at Makati Med, which can release a result in 1-2 days

The only hospitals who could guarantee a result of between 1-2 days are Makati Medical Center and Chinese General Hospital, but recent reports said it has become difficult to get an appointment for both facilities.

The problem is so severe that some employment agencies in Hong Kong have decided not to deploy workers in the Philippines for a week to test the waters. They have also petitioned Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan to extend the required validity for the test to one week.
Lazaro said her agency in Manila told her to go instead to St. Luke’s Hospital at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig for the test which would have cost Php4,300, but she balked after learning that she couldn’t get the result on time, either.

“Three days din po ang release ng resulta,” she said.
(The result will also take three days)

She said she would have preferred to go to Makati Med, even if it charges Php8,150 for the test. However, her agency told her the hospital no longer provides some of the requirements she needed to show upon check-in.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

Lazaro said the fee was no problem as her new employer had promised to reimburse her for the cost of the test, as well as pay for her 14-day hotel quarantine.

Another helper who is booked on an HK Airlines flight to Hong Kong tomorrow, Jul 31, has bigger problems.

She revealed she was tested on Tuesday, and could have barely made it to boarding time, but her agency informed her today that the flight had been canceled.

That means the money and effort she put into complying with the tough requirements have been put to naught.

The third helper who is due to fly back to Hong Kong Saturday, cancelled her booking with Cathay Pacific after realizing late Wednesday that she mistakenly entered on her swab test form not her passport number but her universal healthcare ID number.

Adelfa Melosantos said she was swabbed for free on Wednesday at the Coast Guard testing center at Palacio de Maynila on Roxas Blvd. Earlier she went to the Chinese General Hospital but was refused. At Makati Med, she was told to get an appointment.

But on her way back to Nueva Ecija after the swab test at Palacio, Melosantos, who will be working for a new employer in Hong Kong, realized it was not her passport number that she had entered on the form.

To complicate things, her agency told her only today that she needed to pay an extra Php14,000, supposedly for an updated OEC, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration membership, medical examination certificate and pre-departure orientation seminar.

After being told at the end of the day about the hiccup, her irate employer told the helper they would just hire a new agency to process her papers.  

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