MANILA, Philippines – Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest low-cost carrier, said Hong Kong-bound passengers must now take an antigen test inside the airport before boarding their flights as it strengthens screening efforts against COVID-19.
This is in addition to the requirement for a negative RT-PCR test result taken at least 72 hours prior to departure.
In a statement on Friday (September 17), Cebu Pacific said it will bear the cost of antigen testing, which is typically priced at around P700, until September 30 of this year.
Passengers who test positive for COVID-19 will not be authorized to board and can rebook or refund their tickets or make use of a travel fund, the airline added.
Cebu Pacific passengers bound for Hong Kong should proceed to the Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 for their antigen testing.
While antigen results will be released in 30 minutes, passengers were advised to get tested four hours before departure.
According to the World Health Organization, antigen tests were able to detect virus proteins collected through nasal swabs.
While this method was less sensitive than RT-PCR tests, the WHO said antigen tests still offered “the possibility of rapid, inexpensive and early detection of the most infectious COVID-19 cases in appropriate settings.”
Cebu Pacific said the pre-boarding test program provides another layer of protection for passengers and crew.
Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines were among the airlines that suffered temporary bans imposed by Hong Kong authorities earlier this month after several of their passengers were found to be positive for SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID- 19, arriving for testing in Hong Kong.
Those passengers had also submitted negative RT-PCR test results taken within 72 hours prior to their departure, which is a Hong Kong requirement.
Despite its high degree of precision, the WHO said RT-PCR tests could miss virus infections that were incubating or when a person was infected after performing the test.
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