City pursues tourism reopening amid COVID-19 case outbreak

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The escalation of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases did not derail the scheduled reopening of the city’s tourism industry to Region 1 starting Oct. 1.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Oct. 2 assured that the city remains safe for tourists as the outbreak in two barangays which triggered the spike was not caused by random or unidentified cases but was due to contacts of current cases tracked in contact tracing activities.

This means that almost all of the cases were connected to previous patients had been contained or quarantined since detection of the main case and therefore had not had further interaction with other persons in the community.

“As we have often emphasized, the program will be done slowly, safely, surely and responsibly.  Please trust us.  We will never compromise your health and safety in our effort to strike a balance between economic recovery and health,” he said.

The mayor said the tourism reopening program would only allow 200 tourists which is a manageable number and will be done on guided tour fashion which means that their movement will also be controlled.

City Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said that under the Visitors’ Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) registration platform and travel guide, the city as of Sept. 27 has had almost 500 user account registrations and 66 travel requests, 39 of which from Region 1.  The earliest travel request date was for Oct. 2.

Under the “Ridge and Reef” travel corridor, only tourists from Region 1 will be allowed to visit the city through the guided tour concept as the first phase of the program. Phase two will include Regions 2 and 3 and phase three, all other regions.

Last Sept. 28 and 29, the city posted its highest number of COVID-19 cases in a day at 68, most of whom were police trainees and part of the cluster with 92 cases and slaughterhouse workers with a total of 56 cases.

City Health Services Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo said there were three major case clusters so far while the rest had already been contained.

“We don’t expect the outbreak to affect our tourism plan. After all, we know where the cases are coming from and containment measures had been done before their diagnosis came,” the mayor said.

“We are ready because these cases have already been confined and isolated from the community. In fact, we expect more cases to happen in the next days because of the continuing contact tracing and expanded testing but we are okay because we know where our cases our coming from and have undertaken measures,” he said.  – Aileen P. Refuerzo