MANILA - Bacolod City's easing of travel restrictions even as COVID-19 cases rise balances health and economy, its mayor said Thursday as some groups called the move premature.
The city is averaging 93 cases daily versus 6 cases last month, with a healthcare utilization rate of 55 percent, Mayor Evelio Leonardia said.
"The economy has suffered and the people are not happy with that and we thought this was a chance to prove that as long as were able to maintain safety protocols, we continue to live with this," he told ANC's Headstart.
"We realized that in as much as omicron is not as virulent as delta and...when people move around Bacolod as against what it was during height of pandemic, it s a completely different picture. People move around much more free now. I think it’s part of the adjustment, we might as well do it as early as we can."
Fully vaccinated individuals from Western Visayas and Negros Oriental are free to enter the city while those partially inoculated and unvaccinated are required to undergo rapid antigen tests, Leonardia said.
"We've been receiving a lot of complaints. We also see the practicality of the proposal that RT-PCR will require a much longer period and it’s more expensive and that is why people cannot take their flights on time, cannot get their test results according to the schedule," he said.
Leonardia said he will meet with Negros Occidental governor Eugenio "Bong" Lacson on Friday to discuss policies on travel restrictions.
"Bacolod is a highly urbanized city. Technically we're separated and distinct from the province of Negros Occidental but reality demands we should somehow consider that...people that’s close to us can come in and out," he said.
"Negros Oriental, considering that we're on the same island we thought it was going to be logical and practical that we simply just allow them to come in and out."
The city has fully vaccinated 523,000 or 88 percent of its total 590,000 population, Evelio said.
"That is more than enough for herd immunity. We just need to search for 67,000 more people and we're 100 percent vaccinated...We have established some innovations. We are even doing house to house campaign," he said.
"Of course the malls are still there. We have nightshift vaccination. In fact we have a 24-hour vaccination in one of Jollibee stores which has proven also to be effective. We have 5 buses that move around with vaccinators and go to where the people are, markets, terminals, call centers."
The Philippines as of Tuesday has fully vaccinated 57.8 million people, while 59.98 million others have received an initial dose, and 6.68 million booster shots have been administered, according to the Department of Health.