Baguio reopening to proceed as planned despite increase in COVID-19 cases

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(FILE PHOTO)

Baguio City (CNN Philippines, September 30) — Despite the recorded increase of COVID19 cases in the country's summer capital, Baguio City will open to tourists from Region I starting October.

On Wednesday, Baguio City Tourism Officer Aloysius Mapalo said they have been ready since Sept. 21 when tourism was slated to gradually reopen in a bid to jumpstart the economy in the area.

He added that registration or travel requests began on Sept. 22, and 487 account registration were recorded in a span of a week .

Mapalo disclosed that there were 66 travel requests, only 38 of which were from Region 1. Eighteen are from National Capital Region, six from Region 3, two from Region 4 and one from Region 2.

"(The) earliest (travel) request is Oct. 2, I think that is almost approved," he said. "Na-upload requirements including the negative results of their COVID-19 tests."

He added: "We have put in place the mechanism so that we minimize the exposure not only for tourists but also for local residents. As a matter of fact, iyong tourists natin ang mas bibigyan ng maraming advisory and notice [we will give more advisories and notices for tourists] on where they go around the city, because of our (COVID-19 positive) cases in the city."

Mapalo said tourists are not allowed to go to crowded areas such as the Baguio City public market, as well as residential areas except where there are parks.

The operators who designed the tour programs have limited the list of places that tourists can visit, including hotels and restaurants accredited by the Department of Tourism.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the escalation of COVID-19 cases will not derail the scheduled reopening of the city's tourism industry to Region 1.

He said the outbreak in three barangays which triggered the spike was not caused by random or unidentified cases but was due to contact tracing activities.

Magalong added that almost all of the cases were connected to previous patients, and have been contained or quarantined since the main case was detected.

Baguio City Police Office Director PCol Allen Rae Co said they have also come up with a system where tourists would not be able to freely pass through.

"Now we will not be able to accompany each and every tourist, so we came up with a system na hindi po sila makakalusot [they cannot easily pass through], from checkpoint scan QR code, and then you will have to pass through the triage," he said

The City Government Health Services Office reported 44 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the city on Sept. 27, followed by 68 new cases each on Sept. 28 and 29.

On Sept. 21, Magalong and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, along with officials from the Ilocos Region, launched the tourism bubbles in a bid to gradually reopen economies in Baguio, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

Also launched was the Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance application for incoming visitors who would be availing themselves of tour packages from operators and would be assisted during their scheduled stay.