By Jennifer P. Rendon
Five tourists from Metro Manila who entered the world-famous Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan were found to have presented fake reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results.
Worse, three of them were later tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Mayor Floribar Bautista of Malay town said the six tourists were apprehended on January 21, 2021 after verification revealed that they presented spurious RT-PCR results when they entered the island.
A negative RT-PCR result released within 72 hours of travel is a requisite for tourists who wish to go to Boracay.
After presenting their result, they were given provisional quick reaction (QR) codes while their test results were being validated.
Upon learning that the results were fakes, the tourists were immediately traced to the hotel where they were billeted.
But they were found to have stayed in a different hotel where they were later apprehended.
Bautista said the tourists were immediately taken to the Aklan Training Center (ATC), the provincial quarantine facility in the capital town of Kalibo in Aklan, where they underwent a swab test.
Three of the tourists later tested positive while their two other companions, who were also taken to ATC, were negative.
Just like other tourists who were caught with falsified RT-PCR tests, the five would also be charged for violation of Republic Act 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act).
In December 2020, police and health authorities also arrested six tourists from Metro Manila with fake RT-PCR results.
PERSONA NON GRATA
Since Boracay reopened to tourists from outside of Western Visayas in October 2020, Bautista said they caught more than 20 tourists with bogus RT-PCR results.
“That’s why, we are asking the help of the establishments or hotels to also verify the RT-PCR test results of their guests,” he said.
After all, “sila din ang masisira,” the mayor added.
Bautista said the hotels should require their confirmed guests to send copies of their swab test results via email before their scheduled arrival.
“Usually, it will take some time for the validating team to get a verification result from the clinic where they had taken the tests,” he said.
Bautista said some hotels in Boracay are also offering a travel package that would include an RT-PCR test by an accredited clinic in their point of origin.
Because of this new incident, Floribar said the local government mulled during a meeting Monday to declare tourists who present falsified swab test results persona non grata or unwelcome.
“Hindi na sila pwedeng makapunta sa Boracay,” he said.
In December 2020, Bautista said they sent a resolution to the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force to allow antigen test, which is a Covid-19 test that detects certain proteins in the virus, instead of RT-PCR tests for tourists.
Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection.
“Pero wala pa ring feedback about it,” he said.
The local government explored the use of antigen test following the slump in the number of tourists that entered Boracay due to the high cost of RT-PCR tests, which is the gold standard for Covid-19 detection.