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No discrimination against the unvaxxed in Cebu province

/ 05:06 AM January 22, 2022

GWEN RULES Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia (center) offers a dance to the Sto. Niño in front of the provincial capitol on Jan. 16, days before she signed an order prohibiting discrimination against unvaccinated persons. —DALE ISRAEL

CEBU CITY—Cebu province is not taking the stance of the Cebu City government when it comes to unvaccinated individuals: It will not discriminate.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has reminded mayors in the province through a memorandum that vaccination card should not be made an “additional mandatory requirement for any educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purpose” as stated in section 12 of Republic Act No. 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.

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“We still are a nation of laws, right? Not of men. So in the province of Cebu, we will not discriminate. And that is how we will proceed,” Garcia said.

The governor’s memorandum dated Jan. 19 came amid reports that teachers and parents were made to present their vaccination cards before entering a school facility to get the modules of their children. There were also reports that some residents in the province were required by their employers to submit proof of vaccination before being allowed to enter their workplaces.

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The nondiscriminatory policy begins at the provincial capitol, as it will continue to allow unvaccinated individuals to enter the seat of the provincial government even if the building is located in Cebu City that has barred the uninoculated from entering public and private offices and establishments.

Matter of choice

Last Wednesday, the Cebu City government, a highly urbanized locality independent of the province, required the presentation of vaccination cards when one enters city-run offices, shopping malls and other indoor facilities within the city.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has issued Executive Order No. 157 that limits the movement of people amid another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Establishments that violate the mayor’s order will lose their business permits and shall face charges.

But for Garcia, vaccination is a matter of choice. If individuals want vaccination, she said the province would provide them several avenues to get inoculated.

“It (law) is very clear, so I cannot understand why the unvaccinated are discriminated against by not allowing them to board public buses, airplanes and other means of transportation,” she told capitol reporters on Tuesday.

Garcia also questioned why there has been a discrimination against unvaccinated persons when even the inoculated individuals could still be infected with COVID-19 or infect others.

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“I think we’re starting to get confused in treating the unvaccinated as the carriers of this virus if in fact the vaccinated are not considered immune and, therefore, may also catch the virus. If they catch it as they are now catching it, are they not as well carriers? So why this discrimination against the unvaccinated?” she said.

No border controls

Garcia also assured that even if the province is under alert level 3, there will be no lockdowns and border controls.

“We have to first focus on rehabilitation and recovery after the devastation of Typhoon “Odette” (international name: Rai) so I said: no lockdown and there will be no border controls,” she said.

Cebu province covers 44 municipalities and six component cities. Not under its jurisdiction are the highly urbanized cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

In December 2021, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases required unvaccinated employees to provide a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test result before they would be permitted to work on-site.

As of Jan. 20, Cebu province has 2,705 active cases of COVID-19, according to the Department of Health.

Since the start of the pandemic, the province has had 39,904 coronavirus cases with 34,621 recoveries and 2,578 deaths.

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