In Baguio, traffic jams, crowds back
BAGUIO CITY — Traffic jams and crowds have returned to the summer capital, which has drawn throngs of weekend visitors after it reopened its borders to leisure travel on Oct. 29.
Only fully vaccinated tourists have been welcomed back to the city, requiring them to apply for entry through a visitor information and travel assistance (Visita) platform.
But Visita has drawn as many as 10,000 to 20,000 screening requests each day, said Jovita Ganongan, director of the Department of Tourism in the Cordillera during a recent briefing.
As of last week, more than 15,000 people had visited Baguio given a daily cap of 2,000 tourists, she said.
All major Baguio hotels have been booked until December, which is considered a peak season.
Beginning Thursday, a task force also opened Kennon Road to motorists heading for the city from 5 a.m. of Friday to 5 a.m. of Sunday, and for vehicles leaving Baguio from 5 a.m. to midnight every Sunday. Kennon Road had been previously closed to traffic, except for Baguio residents.
The high interest in returning to Baguio for rest and recreation suggests that the city, and the Cordillera provinces by extension, has earned the confidence of people who have resisted travel since the pandemic broke out in March last year, Ganongan said.
But while tourism will continue to spur economic recovery, the medical community has asked the public to be vigilant.
The influx of tourists may be “an ingredient for another surge,” said Dr. Thea Pamela Cajulao, epidemiologist at Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, during a Wednesday briefing.
Baguio and Cordillera COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly after dealing with an unprecedented increase in infections in September, according to the Department of Health. Baguio hospitals treated up to 4,000 active COVID cases that month.
As of Thursday, Baguio recorded only five new cases, raising its active cases to 109. Records showed that the city had logged a total of 29,870 cases.
Aggressive vaccination may have contributed to the downtrend in infections throughout the region, which gave medical workers time to rest and recover, Cajulao said.
At least 81.3 percent (228,622) of the city’s 281,000 target population had been fully vaccinated.Other Cordillera provinces have yet to resume their tourism activities but local communities are exploring the economic potentials of bird-watching tours, which was initiated early this year in Alfonso Lista town, Ifugao province. —VINCENT CABREZA
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