BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN / ADRIAN P. NEMES III
The request of Western Visayas officials for the temporary suspension of flights and trips from the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, or “NCR plus”, and from Cebu, has been approved by the national Inter-Agency Task Force, and took effect yesterday until April 10.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said the travel ban will surely affect the schedule of travelers, but the health of the greater number should take precedence.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the moratorium on travel to Western Visayas due to the surge in Covid-19 cases had been confirmed to him by Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III.
As of April 3, Negros Occidental had 418 Covid cases, from its lowest of 58 in February, the Provincial Incident Management Team reported.
Of the 7,556 cases since March 23 last year, 6,911 have already recovered and 227 have died.
Lacson said the current surge of Covid active cases in Negros Occidental is “a cause of concern that needs the cooperation of everyone.”
He stressed the need for an intensified contact tracing, and reiterated his appeal for Negrenses “to minimize social gatherings and now wear double masks, aside from observing other health protocols.”
Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia was among the WV officials who had earlier called for a temporary suspension of all incoming flights, sea voyage, and land travel from Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, as well as from Cebu and Davao.
Leonardia, in his letter to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said that “despite our requirement for a negative RT-PCR test result, Covid-19 cases continue to rise among inbound travelers, who, after arriving in Bacolod City, experience symptoms and when tested, turn out to be positive.”
Leonardia noted the alarming growth rate of Covid cases at 360 percent for two consecutive weeks.
As of Saturday, active cases of Covid in Bacolod had reached 285. Leonardia stressed that after a year of fighting Covid, a gripping sense of anxiety and uncertainty engulfs the city again.
He said the record high daily cases in Metro Manila, the presence of new variants, and the people’s pandemic fatigue, all contributed to the serious surge of infections prevailing in Bacolod.
Meanwhile, almost all local government units in Negros Occidental ordered the closure of beaches and resorts while Easter Sunday was being marked.
The DILG in Western Visayas earlier disallowed the mandatory swabbing and quarantine upon entry of travelers to Negros Occidental airports and seaports, due to rising Covid cases. DILG regional director Juan Jovian Ingeniero, who is also the chairman of the regional IATF, in his letter to Lacson, said that submission to RT-PCR testing upon entry into Negros Occidental “appears to be in contrast to the following provision of IATF-EID Resolution 101 that testing shall not be made mandatory for travelers, except if the LGU of destination will require testing prior to travel”.*