Boracay scraps COVID test for vaxxed tourists
ILOILO CITY—Foreign and domestic tourists, who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are now allowed to visit Boracay Island without the need of a negative swab test result.
In an executive order that took effect on Feb. 1, Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores lifted the requirement for the negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result that was reimposed on Jan. 9 following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The revised travel policies were issued after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the proposal of the Department of Tourism to allow fully vaccinated tourists from visa-free countries to visit the Philippines.
Fully vaccinated tourists will only be required to present their vaccination card or certificate and proof of identification, including passports for foreign tourists. They are also required to submit proof of hotel booking confirmation and flight or travel details.
Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated tourists are still required to submit a negative RT-PCR test result within 72 hours of their travel date.
The order also relaxed restrictions in Boracay with the operating hours of business establishments now from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.The setting of a curfew on the island has been left to the discretion of the municipal government of Malay, where the 1,032-hectare island is located.
The revised travel guidelines and the lowering of the COVID-19 alert status in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces to alert level 2 are expected to boost tourist arrivals on the island.
From a high of 113,596 in December last year, tourist arrivals in Boracay dropped to 35,799 in January due to travel restrictions in Metro Manila and the reimposition of the testing requirement for tourists regardless of vaccination status.
Several business operators are hoping that no curfew will be implemented on the island to allow tourists to spend more time outdoors and enjoy Boracay’s restaurants and bars.
They also want to scrap the requirement for tourists to wear face masks even outdoors and on the beach, and to mandate this only in indoor and closed spaces and on public transportation.
In 2019, the year before the pandemic was declared, 1,037,619 foreign tourists visited Boracay, or 51 percent of the total 2,034,599 tourists for that year.
The bulk of foreign tourists came from China, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia.
The island was closed to tourists in March 2020 amid quarantine and travel restrictions. The island reopened to tourists from the Western Visayas region three months later, on June 16, and to all domestic tourists on Oct. 1 that year.
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