TOURISTS won’t be dissuaded from visiting Boracay Island, the so-called crown jewel of Philippine tourism, despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases there.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat told the BusinessMirror, “As long as tourists follow the minimum health protocols and the LGU [local government unit] has been implementing surgical lockdowns, then it is fine [for tourists to go to Boracay].”
She added, “We were assured that those establishments where Covid-19 cases were recorded were closed and disinfected for 48 hours, which are the protocols issued by the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] and DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment].”
This developed as the municipal government of Malay in Aklan put more areas in Boracay under “surgical lockdown” over the weekend.
According to the Malay Municipal Health Office (MHO), as of April 4, there were a total of 153 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 90 of which are active cases. Of the total confirmed cases, 65 have recovered, and only one death was recorded, which happened last year.
In a news conference on Good Friday, Mayor Floribar Bautista said two zones, this time in Brgy. Manoc-Manoc, are under surgical lockdown, while the entire Brgy. Balabag, where a number of resorts are located, has been placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for 14 days.
He added, in Filipino, that tourists within the locked-down localities will be issued quarantine passes, to allow them to move around their respective areas. “Establishments with tourists should be able to inform their respective barangays how many quarantine passes are needed for their guests,” he said.
He said tourists arriving in Caticlan (gateway to Boracay) who are booked in resorts where there is an ECQ or surgical lockdown, “are being advised to rebook in establishments outside these areas.”
Outbreak from Manila tourist?
In Friday’s news conference, MHO head Dr. Athena Magdamit explained in Filipino, the increase of cases in Boracay was traced to a party involving visitors from Manila. “On March 10, there was a tourist who came from the NCR who went to Boracay and had a party with locals. Right after then, went back to Manila, and fell ill on March 30. Based on our contact tracing, the people the tourist associated with during the party, manifested Covid symptoms on March 16. But they still didn’t go for medical consultations.”
This is the first recorded case of tourist-to-locals transmission of Covid.
Tourists from NCR are supposed to present negative Covid-19 test results before flying and being allowed by the officials at the Caticlan airport to proceed to Boracay.
Local residents, on the other hand, blame the rising Covid cases on workers going in and out of Boracay, as many reside in the mainland, and government officials summoning island residents for meetings in Kalibo. All are allowed to re-enter Boracay, untested.
“I will bring this up for discussion in the next BIATF meeting with the LGU,” said Romulo Puyat. “All tourists are tested but the locals are free to go in and out. We can discuss with the resorts to consider asking their staff to work in shifts every 14-15 days so they don’t have to leave the island everyday,” she stressed.
Flights suspended to R6, et al.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) on Sunday issued an advisory suspending flights from the National Capital Region, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Cebu City, and Davao City to Region 6 (Western Visayas) and from April 4 to 10. This, after the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved on Saturday the request of governors from the region’s provinces to halt flights as Covid cases are…