Baguio resumes testing for traveling minors
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The presence in the country of the more contagious variants of COVID-19 has prompted authorities to resume testing minors entering the summer capital, on top of mandatory tests required from unvaccinated adult travelers, despite the policy’s potential impact on tourism.
The revised guidelines were discussed by the city’s pandemic task force on July 16 although hotel bookings had increased after vaccinated travelers were exempted from taking either the rapid antigen or the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
The Delta variant, first documented in India, and its more transmissible form, Delta Plus, had not been detected in Baguio, although one case had been recorded in the Cordillera region and was traced to Abra province.
In recent months, Baguio hospitals treated 57 patients afflicted with the Alpha (United Kingdom) and the Beta (South Africa) variants.
But the city health services office has set up measures for a worst-case scenario, including a full inventory of oxygen tanks and other medical equipment, Mayor Benjamin Magalong told reporters on Monday.
The Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, the city’s primary COVID-19 response facility, produces oxygen but has asked for additional funds to buy boosters for their oxygen generators, the mayor said.
As an additional precaution, Baguio has again required travelers aged 17 and younger to secure negative RT-PCR results within 72 hours before entering the city, “and we expect a significant reduction in the number of tourists,” Magalong said.
“We are lowering the ceiling of 3,000 tourists per day. We never reached that target so maybe it’s better to reduce the number of daily visitors since Baguio infections are rising,” he said.
“That’s important so we can control mobility and bring down our infection cases,” he said.
As of Monday, the city had 598 active COVID-19 cases.
Among the city’s latest patients were firemen and four tactical officials of a Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) training program, which Magalong had asked to be stopped last week.
Authorities were investigating the infections at the BFP, while the Philippine National Police may charge officials of the Cordillera Administrative Region Training Center for the infection of close to 125 policemen taking a promotions course in June and July.
To compensate, Magalong has tapped a UK marketing and psychology group to design social marketing strategies to help Baguio economy recover faster. Ogilvy Consulting was introduced at the July 19 executive-legislative meeting.
“There are so many rules for tourists and they are all oriented on safety, whether it is about the journey itself or the accommodations,” said Ogilvy representative Paolo Mercado, a psychologist and a marketing and advertising executive.
“But the question is whether we have achieved a balance because tourism is a ‘delight economy.’ If a visitor is unhappy, he won’t return and businesses die,” Mercado said.
Tourism and sports activities are still struggling in the second year of the pandemic, partly because their traditional patrons now prioritize health security first, he added. —VINCENT CABREZA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.