By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Boracay Island tourists will soon find pandemic-era travel easier, as the Department of Tourism (DOT) announced on Sunday that a negative Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test result may no longer be needed for fully vaccinated travelers in the coming months.
In a press release on Sunday, the DOT said the move was considered as 11,779 tourism workers or 91.96 percent of the island’s workforce have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as of Oct 24, 2021.
The vaccinated workers include those in hotels, resorts, restaurants, spa and wellness centers, souvenir shops, shopping centers, security services and others essential service providers, tourism transport, tourism-related cooperatives and associations, and government frontline service and private agencies.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose for two-jab doses.
Also, more than 19,000, or 77.87 percent of the island’s eligible population of 24,451, have been fully vaccinated.
No new active cases have been recorded in the island as of Oct 18.
With these developments, the DOT is confident that it may be able to fully vaccinate 100 percent of the eligible population in October.
DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat expressed her optimism over the development, as well as Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores’ commitment over the pronouncement.
“Our vaccination rollouts are crucial in protecting our tourism workers as they face visitors every day. With 100 percent of tourism workers in Boracay inoculated, the DOT is confident that in the weeks to come, tourism arrivals on the island will further increase and more tourism establishments will be able to reopen to restore jobs,” Puyat said in a press release.
Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores announced on Friday, Oct 22, 2021, that the local government will also soon scrap the negative RT-PCR requirement to allow fully vaccinated tourists to enter and revive the island’s economy.
Puyat is confident that target will soon be achieved as the local government together with the private sectors have intensified the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the island.
“We have vaccinated more than 90% of our active tourism workers and not just those workers in the hotels but all sectors such as tricycle drivers, vendors of souvenir shops, and masahistas, among others. If we include the residents sa target population that is already 77.87%,” she said.
Recently, some 35,100 doses of Pfizer vaccines have arrived in the island which will be used to inoculate the remaining target population.
“Boracay will be the first tourism destination in the country that will have 100 percent fully vaccinated tourism workers and residents,” Puyat said.
“Once we reach the 100% fully vaccinated status of tourism workers and residents in the island, we will no longer require the negative RT-PCR test,” Miraflores said in a virtual press conference on Friday.
Instead, the provincial government will only require a vaccination certificate for fully vaccinated individuals.
Meanwhile, individuals who only received the first dose will still be required to secure a negative swab test.
While the negative RT-PCR test is currently required, Miraflores said they will issue another set of guidelines by the end of this month or next month removing the said requirement.
The easing of the restrictions for tourists will be implemented as soon as the island inoculates 100% of its target population which will include active tourism workers and residents.
Puyat added that the DOT is hopeful that this development will help boost tourism confidence to travel and improve employment conditions on the island.
“More than the foregone revenue, the DOT is deeply concerned with the impact of the pandemic on the employment of the island’s workers who either have been laid off or are now working on irregular work schedules. We believe that with the 100 percent inoculation of the island’s workers, the confidence of more Filipinos to travel will be restored, and that the island will be back on its feet sooner than anticipated,” she added.
DOT data indicated that the island recorded 6,702 arrivals in September and 17,995 in the first three weeks of October, representing an increase of 258 percent and 1,243.6 percent, respectively, against the same periods last year.
Puyat has reminded the tourists to still follow the minimum public health protocols not only for their own safety but also for the residents of the island.
“We are so happy that we can restart tourism. But still, kahit fully vaccinated and negative RT-PCR result please follow minimum and safety protocols. Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and always wash your hands,” she said. (With a report from ERS)