Inbound commercial flights to the city international airport will finally resume this week after a nearly two-month suspension due to the spike in cases in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Lawyer Arnel Zapatos, the city administrator, said Tuesday the city’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases decided to allow the resumption of incoming commercial flights along with the strict enforcement of health and safety protocols.
He said the move came after the downgrading starting Oct. 16 of the city’s quarantine status to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) “high risk” as set by the national IATF-IED.
“We will have two flights each per week for the three airlines servicing the route,” he told reporters.
He was referring to Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines (PAL), and Air Asia, which operate flights from Manila, Cebu and Clark, Pampanga to this city.
The schedule of flights is now being arranged by the concerned airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
The city government suspended all inbound flights to this city last Aug. 24 after recording the initial confirmed cases of Covid-19 local transmission.
Before the suspension, Cebu Pacific and PAL operated two return flights every week from Manila scheduled every Monday and Thursday. The flights to Cebu have not yet resumed then.
Zapatos said all incoming passengers are still required to present negative Covid-19 test results as provided for in a city ordinance.
He said they will now accept results from rapid antigen screening as an alternative to the previous reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing requirement.
He said the national IATF had previously approved the use of rapid antigen testing as part of the screening protocol for domestic air travel.
“It (antigen) is highly recommended by health experts as well,” Zapatos said.
The City Health Office started using rapid antigen screening last week in testing suspect and probable Covid-19 patients at the community level.
Officials said antigen screening is rated as highly reliable in terms of results and with almost the same accuracy as that of the RT-PCR testing. (PNA)