THE ZAMBOANGA City task force managing the coronavirus response caught 23 people last week, including 10 over the weekend, with fake coronavirus test results upon arrival at the airport.   

In a statement Monday, the local government reiterated its warning against the use of fake reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results, one of the requirements for all travelers entering the city, whether staying or transiting.  

Those caught with a fake test result were charged with an administrative fine of up to P5,000, sent back to their place of origin, and could face further charges. Quarantine hotel fees are also at their own expense if the next available return flight to their port of origin entails staying in the city.   

“Executive Order 674-2021 provides that travelers caught without RT-PCR or with falsified or imitation RT-PCR results shall be charged with an administrative fine in the maximum amount of P5K. In addition, they shall immediately be deported to their place of origin, at their own expense. This, however, is not a waiver of any charge which may be filed against the individual for violation of the Revised Penal Code or other special law,” the city government said.   

The Zamboanga City airport is a main gateway to the southwestern part of Mindanao.    

After battling a surge in cases over the last couple of months, Zamboanga City is now under a relaxed quarantine status, but the task force against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) maintains strict controls at its air, sea, and land borders.   

One case of the more transmissible Delta variant was confirmed last week in the city, but the patient was actually first recorded as a COVID-19 case on July 4.  

City Health Officer Dulce D. Miravite, in a statement from the local government last week, explained that the Delta index case, along with 14 other crew members of an inter-island vessel, arrived in the city on July 2 and were immediately swabbed as they exhibited signs and symptoms of COVID-19.  

Their RT-PCR test results came out July 4, of which 12 turned out positive. Their specimen samples were sent to Manila for genomic testing due to the “clustering of cases.” The genome results were released Aug. 5 with one Delta case identified.  

Ms. Miravite said the patient has recovered and completed the required quarantine period. — MSJ