LAPU-LAPU CITY, CEBU – The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) has already started the operations of its own COVID-19 PCR testing laboratory. This is the country’s first airport-dedicated testing lab with state-of-the-art facilities. It holds a BSL-2 certification from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
According to MCIA operator GMR MEGAWIDE Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), the 400-sqm. laboratory is designed to process 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day with test results available within 24 hours, the shortest time in the country to release swab test results.
Equipped with its own HVAC system, the lab’s state-of-the-art equipment also includes two MagNA Pure 96 System that can process up to 96 RNA samples each in less than two hours compared to the manual process that usually takes four to six hours. The laboratory also has two LightCycler 480 Instrument II that can amplify and analyze a total of 184 samples in 90 minutes. The construction of the laboratory started on 01 June 2020 with the first swab samples processed on 21 June 2020.
“The additional testing capacity and quick turnaround time within 24 hours of our COVID laboratory will help support the government in bringing Filipino OFWs and seafarers home,” said Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, Chief Executive Advisor of GMCAC. “This will also push for the growth of our domestic traffic once travel restrictions by the LGU are lifted.”
MCIA streamlines International Arrivals with online registration
Harrison added that the strategy to build a COVID-19 PCR testing laboratory came from the vision of Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade to enhance the capacity of the health sector and reduce the time taken for arriving passengers to obtain their test results.
Currently, PCR swab testing and a confirmed hotel accommodation pending test results are required for all international flight passengers arriving at MCIA. Based on the approved process, all arriving international flight passengers must register via the Passenger Arrival Registration Form on the MCIA website beginning 15 July 2020. All registered passengers will then receive a unique Travel Reference Number (TRN) required during the verification process upon arrival at MCIA. Once the e-verification process is completed, passengers can proceed to Quarantine and Immigration and undergo swab testing.
Swab sampling takes place at an isolated portion of MCIA’s Terminal 2 (T2) Arrival Reclaim Hall with 12 testing booths and a one-stop shop registration counter for the different government agencies such as the DOH, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Passengers with negative results will receive a copy of their test results via email from DOH within 24 hours while passengers that test positive for the COVID-19 virus will be taken care of directly by DOH. The 24-hour test result delivery allows both passengers and government agencies such as OWWA to minimize the cost of hotel accommodation as isolation while waiting for the test results.
“When it became clear that testing capability was going to be a prerequisite for the resumption of international travel, we immediately embarked on the ambitious project of putting up the fastest built and accredited molecular laboratory with the capability to do mass testing and generate results in the quickest possible time. It should be noted that the airport will not profit a single cent from the laboratory because we envisioned this to be our contribution to the government’s effort to bring home our stranded kababayans at minimal cost to them and the government and to jumpstarting our economy,” said MCIAA General Manager and CEO Atty. Steve Dicdican.
The laboratory is manned and operated by Prime Care Medgruppe that is accredited and certified by DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).