Big COVID-19 news from Boracay Island in the Philippines:
- 16 workers from one resort tested positive
- there are questions about testing delays
- some domestic tourists forged negative COVID-19 test results to get onto the island
Each news story has interesting details.
COVID-19 news from Boracay
16 positive workers
The local COVID task force shut down the luxury Shangri-La Boracay Resort for disinfection.
This news broke earlier this week. Since then, the workers have been in quarantine, their close contacts in self isolation. All reports I’ve seen say the cases are mild or asymptomatic.
Shangri-La is the island’s premiere resort. As budget travelers, we don’t stay in a places like that, although we did visit its exclusive Punta Bunga Beach before domestic tourism started. It was deserted on that memorable early September day.
No more ‘COVID-free’ zone
Domestic tourism to Boracay opened in October. “COVID-free” getaways lured visitors with means. Tourist numbers steadily increased through today, though they are only a fraction of pre-pandemic bookings.
Many visitors come from Manila and Iloilo, where there have been thousands of active COVID cases for about a year.
Even with all the best protocols, it was only a matter of time until the virus reached this region.
There is sharp anxiety over the tourism problem.
Locals are desperate for income. Tourism is – or was – the economic engine here. Locals don’t much care about a virus that seemingly doesn’t have a high death rate here. (At least, not yet.)
Locals who need work and income do not want another lockdown. It’s about survival now.
Some media blast the government for the new Boracay COVID cases. Opinion writers call delayed testing a sign of incompetence.
“…Money was made available to the Aklan provincial government to regularly test Boracay workers in October,” says a writer in the Philippine Star. “By December DOT was complaining the provincial government was not testing.”
More affluent people wonder if another lockdown would be prudent, so tourists feel safe. After everything, it would be an ironic flip if tourists caught COVID from local workers.
Some COVID-19 news reports quote the mayor of Malay blaming workers for carrying COVID to Boracay from the mainland. There have been hundreds of cases in Aklan Province, and a recent death in a neighborhood near ours.
So, it’s the locals’ fault. Or is it??
Forged negative COVID-19 test results
Fraud by some visitors is another big problem. Several people have gone to Boracay with fake negative test results.
A few times, those dishonest domestic tourists later tested positive for COVID-19.
Before their arrests, the forgers had already been in contact with countless people: boatmen, trike drivers, waitresses, shop clerks, lifeguards, other tourists.
Let me be clear: I still go to Boracay and spend money and enjoy the beaches. After all, it’s rated high on the list of best island beaches in the world.
I still feel ‘safe’ because I stay informed, and, as a foreigner on a tourist visa, I make sure to follow the rules.
Ultimately, however, I believe the rewards of going to Boracay are worth a calculated risk. Isn’t everything in life a calculated risk?
I also go to the provincial capital, Kalibo, once a week. I take the bus instead of passenger vans that are a bit faster because it’s easier to social distance on a big bus.
Kalibo has far more cases than Boracay, at this point. I do not hang out around the city too much – I visit a friend and we sit outside in his Serenity Garden.
I am allowed to travel to these places, along with countless other people. Even though I take precautions, I try to focus more on faith, less on fear. Let go and let God.
Forged and tardy tests aside, one problem with masks, shields, distancing, sanitizing: the rules are for people, and people make mistakes. Another problem: people simply are tired of wearing masks and shields. They’re tired of the pandemic – of not having any income.
So, who can really say who is to blame? Bureaucracy? Dishonest tourists? Asymptomatic workers who don’t even know they’re positive?
Does it even matter?
I suspect the blame game isn’t even at half-time yet. Not only here in the Philippines, but in countries all over Earth – especially in places where tourism profits are non-existent.