The House leadership has deferred the implementation of its “No COVID Test, No Entry Policy” as a result of the logistical difficulties caused by typhoon “Ulysses.”

220717 Congress Joint Session 02 Romero - House suspends ‘No COVID-19 test’ rule
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The Manila Bulletin acquired a digital copy of a memorandum titled “Suspension of COVID-19 testing requirement for entry into the buildings of the House of Representatives” signed by Secretary-General Jocelia Bighani Sipin dated Nov. 12, 2020.

“In view of the unforeseen events brought about by the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses, the requirement to have the appropriate COVID-19 test as prerequisite for entry into the buildings of the House of Representatives under HRep Memorandum Circular No.18-107 (SG) is hereby suspended until further notice,” Sipin said in one-page memorandum.

“In the meantime, everyone is enjoined to continue complying with the health and safety protocol of the HRep pursuant to the existing guidelines,” she added.

She said that the “administration of the required test shall resume on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.” The source who sent the memorandum noted that the last line is somewhat confusing, given the tone of the document.

A separate source said that as per the original plan, “visitors,” meaning non-House members (congressmen) or employees, would be made to undergo a swab antigen test before stepping foot at the House of Representatives.

“They planned on being very strict on this,” the source said. Antigen tests are administered either by nasal or throat swabs and can diagnose an active coronavirus infection.

On the other hand, House members and workers – including members of the media – would have to be subjected to a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, another swab-based test. It is the most accurate COVID-19 test available in the market and typically does not need to be repeated.

Unlike RT-PCR tests that typically take two days and require the use of a laboratory for completion, an antigen test can be carried out on the spot and yield results in 15 minutes.

“Because of the typhoon last week, the House wasn’t able to conduct RT-PCR tests on congressmen and employees. That’s why they have suspended the test requirement for now,” the source said.

Nov. 16 marks Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco’s first “regular” session day as Speaker of the House. He was officially installed as Speaker last Oct.  13 during a special session, replacing Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano. 

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