Leni: Easing travel controls can cause surge in cases

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    BY WENDELL VIGILIA and VICTOR REYES

    VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday criticized the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to remove RT-PCR test as a requirement for domestic travelers, saying this could cause a surge of COVID-19 cases even in areas with low number or even zero cases.

    “Hindi din sa akin okay na inalis na ang testing saka quarantine protocols. Para sa akin delikado iyon lalo pa ngayon na mataas ang cases natin (It’s also not okay with me that testing and quarantine protocols were removed. To me, that’s dangerous, especially now that our cases are high),” Robredo said.

    As a precautionary measure, Robredo said she and her staff will still undergo regular swab tests before going to the provinces even if they are no longer required to do so since they are classified as Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APOR).

    The Vice President made her objection public as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) reminded domestic travelers to continue to observe health protocols as a precaution against catching the coronavirus.

    Interior undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya reiterated that the wearing of face masks and shields and the social distancing rule will still be enforced.

    “Even if travel protocols have been eased, we would like to remind the travelers that we will still enforce minimum health standards,” Malaya said.

    He appealed to local tourists to “remain disciplined in following physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and wearing of face masks and face shields. Observe discipline for a safe travel.”

    The IATF-EID over the weekend lifted rigid border controls and paved the way for the reopening of the local tourism industry. Among the restrictions that were relaxed were the presentation of documentary requirements such as travel authority from the PNP and medical certificate from local government units for land, air and sea travel.

    The task force likewise said COVID-19 testing and the 14-day isolation period shall no longer be mandatory for domestic travelers, except in provinces where testing and quarantine are listed by the local government unit as requirements prior to entry.

    But, it added, “the health assessment of passengers or travelers supervised by medical professionals shall be mandatory upon entry in the port/terminal and exit at point of destination.”

    Malaya asked the public to check the travel regulations of their LGUs of destination before they embark on their travel to ensure hassle-free trips.

    Malaya said LGUs, regardless if they require swab testing or not, are mandated to conduct clinical and exposure assessment at all entry and exit points.

    Meanwhile, the Pasay City police on Sunday deployed 180 police officers to ensure that residents living in barangays under a 14-day localized enhanced community quarantine (LECQ) are following stay-home regulations.

    Pasay City chief Cesar Paday-os said the cops will do round-the-clock monitoring of barangays, including the stores and restaurants inside and around the Mall of Asia complex.

    The city government has placed 55 barangays under LECQ after the number of COVID-19 positives shoot up in the last two weeks.

    To allay rising community concern, the Pasay City Health Office said free swab tests will be offered from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting today until Friday, March 5 to residents who have been exposed to infected residents.

    Residents of barangay 1 to 75 and barangay 80 to 143 can have their tests at the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School, while those from barangays 76 to 79 and 144 to 201 can avail of the free swab tests at the Malibay Plaza. – With Noel Talacay