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By February 1, NegOcc and Bacolod have agreed to waive the RT-PCR test requirement.

The provincial government of Negros Occidental has agreed to this capital city’s request to eliminate the obligatory negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result for inbound passengers, especially those arriving from Manila, as of February 1.

Instead, arriving passengers will be required to show a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result obtained only from an accredited Department of Health facility or laboratory within 48 hours before their scheduled departure.

In a virtual meeting held on Friday afternoon, Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and Mayor Evelio Leonardia, along with the city and municipal mayors of Negros Occidental, reached an accord.

“I thank Governor Lacson for listening to Bacolod’s request to eliminate the negative RT-PCR criterion and acting favorably on it,” Leonardia said in a statement.

All passengers arriving from outside Western Visayas and Negros Oriental must present a negative RAT result, regardless of their coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination status, according to Em Legaspi-Ang, executive director of Bacolod City Emergency Operations Center Task Force, who presented the city government’s proposal.

Lacson stated in a statement issued late Friday that the provincial government had agreed to Bacolod’s request to authorize the use of RAT as a substitute for the RT-PCR test.

While both tests are appropriate, he claims that the RT-PCR test is valid for 72 hours after swab sample extraction, whilst the RAT test is only valid for 48 hours.

Lacson further stated that the provincial government is willing to do a free antigen test for Bacolod-bound travelers upon arrival “to check the veracity of RAT results and for everyone’s safety.”

The meeting was called after Leonardia sent Lacson a letter on January 24 requesting a conversation on how the province and the city might coordinate and harmonize their separate travel standards for the safety, convenience, and safety of their citizens.

Starting January 23, the city government eliminated the requirement for a negative RT-PCR test for inbound travel, while the province continues to require it, including from Bacolod-bound travelers who arrive at the Bacolod-Silay Airport in Silay City, which is under the jurisdiction of Negros Occidental.

Leonardia wrote in the letter that molecular laboratories and clinics cannot ensure that travelers’ findings will be ready in time for their trip and that the RT-PCR test is more expensive than the RAT method.

Until January 31, both Negros Occidental and Bacolod City are under Alert Level 3.

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