Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia said they are going to eliminate doing away with the invasive swab test requirement for all local visitors in a desperate bid to revive the local economy that had sunk to “unbelievable lows” during the yearlong Covid lockdown imposed by Malacanang.
Garcia said officials want to entice more domestic travelers to visit Cebu, but they are not able to do so because of the cost-prohibitive and uncomfortable swab test requirement or RT-PCR.
Swab tests are normally being required of visitors by virtually all local government units in the country.
World Health Organization country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe however warned government executives against such a move.
He said thde decision to remove swab testing has to be carefully calibrated, considering the existence of new variants and high cases of infection.
(It was reported by ABS-CBN that the Department of Interior and Local Government is studying a proposal to remove swab testing as a requirement for travel. This is in line with the recommendation of the Department of Tourism to boost local tourism figures by streamlining travel rules to preferred destinations.)
Executive Order No. 12, which was signed last Feb. 22 by Garcia, formally reopens Cebu to local tourists by eliminating several health protocols led by the RT-PCR.
She said this is in line with the campaign to halt the “bleeding” of Cebu’s tourism industry, which has lost tens of billions of pesos during the quarantine period, by easing travel restrictions.
Garcia slammed the door on proposals to place again Cebu, the most populous and prosperous province in Central Visayas, under strict quarantine status due to rising Covid cases, as well as the outbreak of two virus mutations that were noted by the Department of Health.
“Don’t you dare try because I will not agree,” she was quoted as saying to reporters at the provincial Capitol. “We can take care of ourselves. I will not and never against accept a lockdown.”
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had said that in 2020, Central Visayas (mostly Cebu) lost at least $700 million or about P35 billion in tourism revenues caused by the quarantine restrictions and border closures.
Photo: FB/Gwen Garcia