Border control: Questions raised about Benguet’s travel protocols

August 9, 2021 - 11:20 AM
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Swab test taker
A laboratory worker takes a swab test. (Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash)

Benguet‘s advisory about its border control protocols amid the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant raised concerns on the case of fully vaccinated people who can still get infected and pass on the virus.

Baguio City‘s public information office (PIO) on Thursday reshared a post from Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas which states that non-Benguet residents entering the province must present the following at the border checkpoints:

  • Negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result or;
  • Vaccination card reflecting the card owner is fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Non-residents without RT-PCR results or full vaccination cards will be required to undergo triage in designated triage areas with the assistance of the Philippine National Police.

The advisory also stressed the strict adherence to the minimum public health protocols such as physical distancing and the wearing of the requisite face masks and face shields.

The policy on non-Benguet residents was reiterated by another post of the city’s PIO on Friday which reported the extension of Baguio City’s prohibition on non-essential travels.

It said that Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong has extended the ban until August 15 “as a preemptive measure” against the highly contagious Delta variant.

Only “travelers with indispensable purposes” will be allowed to enter the Summer Capital, who needed the following:

  • Must be registered at the hdf.baguio.gov.ph website,
  • Must present valid identification card, and
  • Must have negative RT-PCR test result valid for 72 hours prior to entry or;
  • Present a full vaccination card indicating that the individual is fully vaccinated

The guidelines will be implemented until August 15.

But science says…

The policy about non-residents presenting either a negative RT-PCR result or a full vaccination card concerned some Filipinos who pointed out that a fully vaccinated person can still catch the virus.

The directive suggests that those who are fully vaccinated do not need to present a swab test result if they will show their vaccination cards.

Those who are partially vaccinated and the unvaccinated, meanwhile, needed to present a swab test result.

“What if COVID-positive ‘yung vaccinated person?” a Facebook user asked in response to the policy.

“Kung vaccinated ka ba ‘di ka na pwede carrier ng virus?” another online user wondered.

“Kahit naman vaccinated na ang tao ay na-vi-virus pa din..” a different Filipino commented to the post.

“I thought, according to CDC, (that) even vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus. So why allow them to enter?” another Facebook user said, referencing the national public health agency of the United States.

CDC is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes that “the risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated where community transmission of the virus is widespread.”

“Vaccinated people can still become infected and spread the virus to others,” part of its science brief said.

US CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky also said that while vaccines can prevent severe illness and death, they cannot prevent the transmission of the virus in light of the Delta variant.

“Information on the Delta variant from several states and other countries indicates that, on rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others,” she said in a report.

CDC found out that the amount of virus present in vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant is similar to the levels found in unvaccinated people with Delta infections.

It is an indication that vaccinated people can transmit the virus, even though they’re less likely to get sick.