Beach with long tree shadows and cloudy sky.

COVID-19 creeps closer to our pandemic paradise bunker

There has been a death attributed to COVID in the neighborhood just to our east. And so, as expected, 10 months into this travel pause, COVID-19 creeps closer to us in this rural area of the Philippines.

We’ve experienced a smattering of coronavirus cases in our area for several months. But nothing this close.

COVID-19 creeps closer

Local government officials say an 81-year-old woman died of COVID in the neighborhood next to ours, in Cubay Sur Barangay.

She had health problems before she got the virus. No word on how she got it, either. No travel history, and no contact with any known cases.

Our barangay is Motag. We are on the eastern edge, and we stay in the upper middle circle on the map below. Just across a stream is Cubay Sur, the upper right circle.

Kinda close.

The official news release came from the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Malay Municipality. It was posted on Facebook. (Malay is comprised of several ‘mainland’ barangays, including Boracay Island and the port town of Caticlan.)

The release reveals quite a bit about this case. Tap to enlarge.

The fake test problem

LGU Malay has another problem — fake tests turned in by domestic tourists from Manila going to Boracay.

People from Manila have shown fake negative COVID tests in order to get on the popular island. More than a dozen people now face serious charges for fraud. (Here is a news report on the latest attempt.)

Boracay had to open to visitors because it is the economic engine of this region. People are barely surviving after a year without this income. And since foreigners are not yet allowed in on tourist visas, there was a push to kick-start domestic tourism.

It worked. LGU Malay reported more than 15,000 tourists went to Boracay in December. It’s a far cry from the pre-pandemic numbers, but it’s something.

Protocols

It seems officials are doing everything they can to show potential tourists things here are safe. Protocols must be followed. Face masks and shields, sanitizers, social distancing – by now we all know the drill.

The day after the local COVID death announcement, the Malay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) posted several photos of men sanitizing the ferry boats that run from Caticlan to Boracay and back.

Below is one photo from the MDRRMC’s public Facebook post.

Aklan COVID cases

Kalibo International Airport

Malay Municipality is in Aklan Province (like a state). The capital is Kalibo. COVID cases in Kalibo have been popping up for months. The latest cluster is from the airport. Nine workers tested positive during a mass testing effort. Those workers are now in quarantine.

Initially, I was under the impression the airport was closed. It’s not – as far as I can tell from its Facebook page. There are no news reports about beyond the test results.

Official news can be tough to come by here. In fact, there was chatter about one of the new COVID variants discovered in Manila. That turned out to be false, according to the Philippine Department of Health. It posted a notice on its Facebook page.

I’m not sure how I would find anything out without Facebook. That’s a whole new level of frightening for another blog post one day. Maybe.

Aklan priests test positive

Two Catholic priests in Aklan Province have COVID-19, according to a report at one of the only local(ish) news organizations in this area.

Panay News reports one of the priests was assigned to Boracay Island. The other priest was from Numancia – a town close to Kalibo.

Through contract tracing, several people were tested; all are reported negative for COVID-19. The priests are in quarantine as they recover in Kalibo.

The Catholic Church is a big deal in the Philippines – 80 percent of Filipinos identify as Catholic.

I have a feeling we might see more COVID cases in 2021. Really, it was just a matter of time before we could hear incoming from our bunker.

Local vaccinations

We will not be vaccinated anytime soon. The Philippines is still negotiating with drug makers and other countries on how and when to get supplies.

I’ve heard all types of chatter about which brand (Pfizer versus Sinovac) will go to what area (big cities versus rural areas).

Perhaps because we are near Boracay, we will see a vaccine sooner than I anticipate. But realistically, I cannot see it happening before well into the second quarter of the year.

Even when it does get here, there is no plan to give it to foreign nationals.

Additionally, I honestly don’t know how I feel about taking a jab. Especially China’s Sinovac. The science shows it doesn’t appear to be that effective.

So I’ll keep enjoying one day at a time, here at the awesome Hangout Beach Resort. For now.

Thanks for reading, “COVID-19 creeps closer to our pandemic paradise bunker.”

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