Cebu drops swab test requirement for tourists
CEBU CITY—Cebu will no longer require swab tests for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from visitors entering the province, bucking the strict measure imposed by practically all other local governments in the country.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia made the announcement as she declared her opposition to all efforts to place Cebu on strict quarantine despite rising COVID-19 cases in the province and in the independent cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu, as well as the discovery of two virus mutations on the island.
“Never again,” she said at a news conference at the Capitol late on Friday, referring to proposals to revert Cebu to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest form of quarantine.
“Don’t you dare try because I will not agree, and the Cebuanos will not agree that you will make our lives miserable. Don’t mess with us. We can take care of ourselves. I will not and never again accept a lockdown. I’ll fight for Cebu and Cebuanos because Cebu is moving on and moving forward,” she said.
Even with the upsurge of COVID-19 cases, Garcia said Cebu had managed the situation well through existing protocols and its health-care system was not overwhelmed.
She said no additional protocols would be imposed even with the presence of the two virus mutations reported by the Department of Health (DOH).
‘Easier for tourists’
Cebu would officially open to domestic tourists starting Tuesday, Garcia said. It will only require a doctor’s medical certificate and prebooking of accommodations.
“We will make it easier for tourists to come into the province of Cebu,” she said.
Garcia has allowed tourism facilities in the province to accept guests from within the island in October last year, mainly to halt the bleeding of its hospitality industry.
The National Economic and Development Authority in Central Visayas earlier reported that the region lost $713 million, or at least P35.5 billion, in tourism revenues, mostly in Cebu, due to quarantine restrictions and border closures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Garcia took a swipe at the recommendations of at least three medical consultants of the government who advised the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to put Cebu under ECQ, the equivalent of a total “lockdown.”
According to Garcia, the three also recommended to Health Secretary Fransisco Duque III the option to prevent Cebu residents from leaving the island. Duque has overruled the suggestion, she said.
Garcia said the consultants cited the presence of “mutations” and the quick spread of the virus in Cebu as reasons for another lockdown. But she noted that rising COVID-19 cases were also observed in other areas in the country, including Metro Manila.
“Stop making wrong recommendations. Why is it so easy for you to put Cebu under lockdown. You did not even recommend to put Metro Manila cities under lockdown when the COVID-19 cases there are also high. I wonder why? Is it because I already announced that Cebu is open for domestic tourism now?,” Garcia said.
The governor did not identify the doctor-consultants but warned that she would reveal their names if they insisted on a lockdown.
Cebu and the highly urbanized cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue are under modified general community quarantine, the loosest mode of quarantine in the country.
The province had 1,138 active COVID-19 cases as of Feb, 19, while Cebu City had 2,897, DOH records showed. INQ
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