The past few days have been busy in terms of announcements coming from Malacanang as well as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). There are developments when it comes to sports, which will continue to prohibit spectators in areas where these physical activities will be allowed. Metro Manila remains in General Community Quarantine, although Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque shared that they almost placed the region back in MECQ following a string of worrisome COVID numbers. Just yesterday, the country crossed 60,000 in the total of COVID cases, two weeks earlier than predicted.
One of the more interesting recent developments is today’s lifting of the travel ban against foreign nationals in two weeks. Just last week, Filipinos were allowed to go on non-essential travel or tourism travel. Meant to revive the economy, the easing of entry restrictions by August 1 will be limited to those with existing long-term visas; no new entry visa application will be accepted.
Last March, the Philippines closed its gates to travelers coming from COVID-stricken countries—including China and its territories such as Macau and Hongkong—as the world started becoming overwhelmed with waves of COVID outbreaks. But some public figures said that move was months-late, as the travel ban should’ve been imposed at the start of the year before significant COVID figures have been logged. Even Vice President Leni Robredo urged the President to ban all travel from China back in January.
But Malacañang, perhaps prioritizing the economic effects of such a ban, didn’t feel the need back then just yet. And here we are now, to and from random plans and pronouncements, and muttering angrily, helplessly, under our breaths about how hindsight should be 20/20 for some people, but remains hopelessly short-sighted. Anyway.
According to Roque, these foreign nationals are subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry. Returning overseas Filipinos will be given priority in terms of airport capacity. Foreign nationals should also secure a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility and a pre-booked coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing provider here.
The IATF’s recent actions, along with the gradual resumption of certain industries, are in compliance with “the directive to ensure the increase of the capacities of the business sector vis-à-vis available transportation to revitalize the economy in Metro Manila and Region IV-A,” as announced in a recent release from the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Many commenters on news postings pushed back at this update saying that this is just another example of kowtowing to China and the workers it continues to send our way. Whether or not that is the actual case remains to be proven. But the more important question is about our capacity and readiness for such an easing. As our resident COVID expert Dr. Benjamin Co always says, “It will be a choice between life and livelihood.”