MANILA (UPDATE) - Domestic tourists will no longer be required to show a negative COVID-19 test when visiting Cebu province, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said in an executive order issued Monday, to make their travel easier as part of efforts to revive the local tourism industry and economy.
"We'll make it simpler. No more RT-PCR tests. No more antigen test. No more rapid test," Garcia, speaking in mixed English and Cebuano languages, said in a press conference last Friday where she spoke about the forthcoming release of EO No. 12, Series of 2021
Travelers will only have to present a valid medical certificate, issued by a reputable physician within 7 days prior to travel date, when purchasing tickets for Cebu, and pass symptoms checking or screening at the points of departure and arrival.
They should also present proof of pre-booking at a resort or hotel accredited by the Cebu Provincial Task Force where they will stay.
"We will make it easier for all tourists to come into the province of Cebu," she said last Friday.
Garcia said the province, which offers various tourism activities including visit to beaches, diving, snorkeling, whale shark watching, and canyoneering, would open officially to domestic tourists on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Tour operators in the province in cooperation with airlines are coming up with packages "for a very, very affordable amount", she said.
"Everyone is going to sacrifice. It's really harder now with zero (income). So, at least, this will allow all stakeholders in the tourism industry here in Cebu to earn income or revenues little by little," the provincial leader said.
'DON'T MESS WITH US'
During the presser, the governor said she rejected proposals of placing the province again under enhanced community quarantine and disallowing Cebu residents to leave the province, amid the presence of 2 mutations of the COVID-19 virus.
"Don't mess with us. We can take care of our ourselves. I will not and never again accept a lockdown," she said.
"I'll fight for Cebu and the Cebuanos because Cebu is moving on and moving forward."
Garcia slammed 3 consultants of the Department of Health for supposedly suggesting stricter quarantine measure for the province. The entire Cebu has been under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) since September last year.
"You are ensconced safely in your air-conditioned offices. You regularly receive your consultancy fees aside from what you earn as doctors. During lockdown, what will happen to those who lost their jobs?" she said in a mix of Cebuano and English. "It's easy for you to decide because you live a comfortable life. It's easy for you to recommend a lockdown."
She declined to name the consultants but she said she would not hesitate to reveal their identities if they insist on their proposal. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III overruled the suggestion after being briefed by the regional health officers, the governor said.
"We did everything, but did the spread of COVID stop? We underwent ECQ, but did COVID [cases] go zero?" Garcia said.
"Lockdowns don't work. Well, they work against the economy. The economy suffers, and the poor bear the brunt the most. Even those in the middle income, and the higher level suffer - if their businesses are shuttered, then they don't get any revenue."
Garcia mentioned a proposal as well to "change the messaging", even by the media, as far as health protocols are concerned.
"'Wear face mask, wear face shield' has been repetitive, and people are tired of it already. I think the messaging should be, 'Let us be responsible for our own preservation.' You want to continue living? Work for it, build up your immune system... Don't abuse your body," she said.
As of Feb. 21, Cebu Province has tallied 9,518 coronavirus infections, with 443 succumbing to the disease. The province's tally includes 7,860 recoveries and 1,215 active cases, data from DOH Central Visayas showed.
Last week, health authorities have confirmed the detection of 2 mutations of "potential clinical significance" of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the illness, in Central Visayas. They were identified as E484K and N501Y.
The E484K mutation, which means changes in its genetic sequence, is present in the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2.
Meanwhile, the N501Y mutation is also found in the UK coronavirus variant, which experts say has higher transmissibility.
Variant refers to a virus that has developed a specific group of mutations causing it to behave differently against the strain it originally originated from.
- with report from Annie Perez
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