Travel Guide

COVID-19 RT-PCR Test for Travelers

Since I’ve been itching to move away from the dull and lifeless quarantine life we are all experiencing; I have already decided to move on and start planning for December 2020 holidays. However, like everyone else, I have also been upset by each local government’s tedious domestic trip requirements. The good thing is that more places are opening for tourists, which only requires a negative result of your RT-PCR test. 

What do we know about taking this test? The Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test is considered the “gold standard” in testing for COVID-19. This method is a type of diagnostic test which detects the virus’s genetic material. It’s written everywhere on the internet, claiming its crown to be the most highly accurate, which does not need to be repeated. Let me walk you around the facts of taking the RT-PCR test for COVID-19 and the price it takes to get your results.

Purpose

Before testing, they will ask you the purpose of why you need to take the test. There are two common purposes for this.  

  1. Travel
    1. Is defined as regardless of your intention, it can either be essential or non-essential travel, or a locally stranded individual (LSIs) going back to their home. You are considered in this category as long as you don’t meet the following criteria.
      1.  You are not experiencing and showing any symptoms of COVID-19.
      2.  Or you have never been exposed to someone positive with COVID-19.
  2. Confirmation
    1. Is defined as someone who meets the following criteria:
      1. Exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19
      2. Showing or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19

Therefore, if your purpose is to travel, you will pay the regular price to take the RT-PCR test. But, if the purpose is for confirmation, you will need to present a Doctor’s prescription to prove your claim and pay a discounted price to take the test as long as you are a PhilHealth member. PhilHealth will only cater to test for confirmation and not for travel purposes.  

Price

There are hundreds of licensed COVID-19 testing laboratory (public and private) all over the Philippines catering mostly to rRT-PCR and the Cartridge-Based PCR. Prices vary differently per facility, so call the phone numbers on the nearest or your preferred facility and ask for the price. 

I’ve called Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) and inquire about the test, and a regular priced test will cost 4,914 PHP while a discounted price cost 1,505 PHP. In St. Lukes BGC, there are two options in availing the test for asymptomatic. Via drive-thru, which cost 6,500 PHP, and through the OPD, which cost 4300 PHP. For symptomatic, you can merely walk-in the ER get tested, but the price is 8,000 PHP for the swab, and additional expenses and tests on top depend on your situation. If you have an HMO and covers the swab test, it will significantly help reduce your out-of-pocket costs. 

Appointments and Results

For Travel purposes:

Setting a schedule is the norm in almost all health facilities nowadays. Make sure to ask your preferred facility weeks ahead and early in the day if they require a scheduled appointment as well as their cut off time. With this, you won’t miss the window period of 72-hour validity. Let them know your planned schedule to see if it’s still possible to get your results right on time. 

The 72-hour validity starts from the moment your specimen has been collected and NOT from when the result was released. Therefore, you should plan your appointment carefully to ensure that your RT-PCR test is still within the 72-hour mark until you arrive at your destination.

Here’s a sample situation. Suppose you need to leave on December 19 at 1 PM and will arrive at your destination after 2 hours. Again, to make sure, please call the facility as early as November to see if you need to book an appointment. Book an appointment for December 17 at 1 PM or at an earlier time. According to the PCMC, results might already be available by the night of December 18, but it’s not always guaranteed due to some factors, so the estimated time is always within 24-48 hours. The facility will send the result to your email. 

If you preferred St. Lukes BGC, you could set your appointment online via https://ehub.stlukesmedicalcenter.com.ph/. You have to create an account if you don’t have one yet. Book your appointment as soon as you can because slots can be fully-booked in no time. You can also view your result via the eHub website, which is also very convenient.

For Confirmation purposes: 

The same scenario applies for this purpose. Check the facility if you need to book an appointment or just walk-in for the test since this purpose does not require a 72-hour validity. 

Requirements

For Travel purposes:

Bring yourself with mask and face shield.

For Confirmation purposes: 

Okay, so this is something vital for you to remember before heading on for the test. If you have the Doctor’s prescription clearly stating that you needed to get tested, even if it’s just an electronic prescription (which is common nowadays), it is accepted. Therefore, you have to bring it and show it. Second, make sure that you have a copy of your PhilHealth number because it’s an essential requirement to avail of the discounted price. Third, you will have to fill up a Case Investigation Form (CIF), so you have to bring a pen, or better yet, fill it up before heading to the facility. 

So that’s it. As for a traveler like me who neither have exposure nor symptoms of COVID-19, my RT-PCR test will be at a regular price. Maybe the only option left for me is to look for a facility that offers a lower price. Yes! to travel life advenCHErers.

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