Boracay almost empty; Holy Week visitors gone
Throngs of tourists were supposed to be on Boracay Island this week for the Lenten break.
But the lockdown in Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces and an outbreak of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in parts of the island left Boracay’s popular beach almost empty, save for a few guests and residents.
“The island is dead. Only the usual pandemic-tired residents and a handful of tourists remain,” a longtime resident and business owner told the Inquirer.
While the island in Malay town, Aklan province, is open to tourists who present a negative COVID-19 test result, most have canceled their bookings because of travel restrictions to and from Metro Manila and also due to the local outbreak.
Tourist arrivals on the island reached 17,183 from March 1 to March 28. The municipal tourism office is expecting the number to reach 20,000 by the end of March due to increasing tourist traffic since December.
The local government of Malay has imposed a two-week lockdown on two zones of Barangay Balabag, one of the three villages of the 1,032-hectare island, because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.The municipal Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 reported 16 new cases on March 30 in Balabag and neighboring Manoc-Manoc village.
The island’s total cases reached 94, with 50 classified as active. Those positive for the virus had been taken to the provincial isolation facility in the capital town of Kalibo.
The lockdown on Zones 5 and 6 from March 28 to April 10 bars movement to and from these areas, except for emergency and essential purposes.
Tourists were also advised to avoid 31 hotels and resorts within the containment area.
Aggressive contact tracing and testing, in the meantime, were being done in these areas as the operation of bars and gatherings on the island had been prohibited.
The provincial government had sent additional contact-tracing teams to the island, said provincial administrator Selwyn Ibarreta, head of the provincial COVID-19 Technical Working Group.
In a local radio interview, Jason Talapian, village chief of Balabag, said the surge in cases in his community was traced to an infected guest who tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning to Metro Manila.
The guest, he said, attended a party on the island.
Talapian said food packs were being distributed to residents in areas on lockdown.
While Holy Week Masses on the island have been allowed, only 282 people, or 30 percent of the seating capacity of the Holy Rosary parish church, will be accommodated inside the church.
Stubs will be given to churchgoers to ensure that restrictions are followed, according to an advisory of the local government.