Gov’t policies juxtaposed: Stay at home or help tourism recover?

March 10, 2021 - 6:19 PM
Photo of the free bus service in Quezon City via Facebook (Quezon City government/Released)

Filipinos are left with this dilemma: whether to stay at home as a preventive measure or have some sought-after vacation outside as more tourist spots gradually reopen and enjoy other recreational activities.

For nearly a week, the Department of Health recorded more than 2,00 infections per day.

These figures came as more tourist destinations reopen across the country, with eased travel restrictions and uniform travel protocols in areas under general community quarantine.

Statistician Peter Cayton raised a concern on this on Twitter, wherein he enumerated two reasons for the public’s perceived non-compliance to the government’s health protocols:

  1. Confusing remarks and decisions about the novel coronavirus pandemic

Cayton viewed the government to be living in “a different reality”

“Message and cues from the government are confusing, and thus, unreliable. Stay at home or go to tourist spots? Go out only for essential reasons or go to cinemas? Cases rising but we are excellent?” he wrote.

  1. Lackluster response efforts from the government

Cayton pointed out that the health authorities’ measures to test, treat and isolate infected patients have not improved since the pandemic started last year.

“Yeah, we have a lot of labs, but the amount of testing NEVER CHANGED. Also, contact tracing is still unknown. How are our HCWs? At best, things barely really changed, lacking compensation,” he said.

Similar pleas from health workers

Some medical professionals have also advised their followers on Twitter to observe the mandated minimum health protocols such as wearing face masks and social distancing.

“Sobrang taas nanaman ng cases this week halos dumodoble na. Di ko alam kung bakit di nabibigyang diin sa media o baka dahil kaka divert ng gobyerno sa bakuna nila. Pero puno na ulit mga covid ward esp sa pgh at ibang hosp sa manila. Ingat tayo!” one user said.

Some doctors of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital also expressed their renewed struggles in accommodating patients infected with the virus which causes COVID-19.

“Last month, we converted 1 COVID ward back to regular ward to accommodate more non-COVID patients. Now we’re converting it back to COVID ward. It’s like March 2020 all over again,” one user said.

“Being both a COVID referral center AND a tertiary referral hospital is a juggling act. And now that non-COVID operations are almost in full swing in the midst of rising COVID cases and crippled workforce, PGH can only do so much. We need everyone’s help. Mask up, people,” another wrote.

Tony Leachon, former consultant at the National Task Force against COVID-19, advised medical-oriented measures to help curb or retard the spread of COVID-19 variants B1351 and B117.

Leachon suggested that citizens in hotspots in the National Capital Region should be prioritized.  He said these areas should also be placed under granular lockdowns.

Last March 9, the Philippines had breached 600,000 total confirmed cases after the DOH reported 2,668 new infections.

Meanwhile, there are 546,078 recovered patients and 12,528 deaths.

Another statistician Edson Guido from ABS-CBN showed through a graph the transmission rate of cases in the country from 100,000 in August 2020 to the current 600,428 in total.

Tourism, other recreational establishments reopening

The Department of Tourism previously hoped the gradual reopening of tourist destinations in areas under the general community quarantine will help the tourism industry recover.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat specifically welcomed the recent decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to allow cinemas and other establishments to resume operations at limited capacity.

“With this development, we see the revitalization of the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector in General Community Quarantine areas and eventually, restoring our competitive advantage in the region,” she said last Month.

The IATF-EID also removed the previous travel authority and mandatory testing requirements for travelers and commuters unless the local government units of destination require them.

The task force also recently allowed the entertainment centers and other businesses to operate at an increased capacity, several malls in areas under general community quarantine.

READ: Philippines to allow cinemas, public attractions to reopen to revive growth

Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos, however, said that Metro Manila mayors agreed to “temporarily suspend” the reopening of operations of cinemas, movie houses and arcades.

Mall operators also deferred the reopening of their movie theaters to wait for the approval and guidelines from LGUs.