Batanes regains COVID-free status, looks to open to tourists

MANILA, Nov 7 (Mabuhay) –The island province of Batanes has declared itself free of the coronavirus after two patients recovered from the viral disease.

After keeping the virus at bay for several months, Batanes reported its first COVID-19 case in September – a locally stranded individual who returned to the province earlier that month. Another returnee tested positive for the virus on October 1.

“Sa awa ng Diyos ay nakalabas na po sila. Okay na po, COVID-free na po kami,” Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco said in an online media briefing on Saturday.

All close contacts of the two patients tested negative for coronavirus infection, Cayco said. A total of 95 returning residents and overseas Filipinos are currently under quarantine but all are asymptomatic, the governor added.

With this development, the local government of Batanes is looking to reopen its doors to tourists soon.

Cayco said the local pandemic task force has agreed to reopen the province to tourists provided that they comply with minimum health standards, such as a 14-day quarantine.

But officials will have to assess the situation for tourists coming from areas such as Metro Manila – the epicenter of the virus – and other cities to determine which visitors will be allowed, she said.

“Sabi ko, mag-assess kami by December. Titingnan namin kung ano sitwasyon sa Manila at iba pang probinsiya para po ‘pag bumuti na po ay puwede na rin ang unti-unting pagbubukas nito dahil dito marami po ang affected nitong pandemya na ito lalo nasa tourism industry po,” Cayco said.

The tourism industry is among the most affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns, as the government sought to limit mobility and prevent the spread of the highly-contagious virus.

Prior to this, some tourist spots such as Boracay and Baguio City have reopened their doors to tourists provided that visitors follow quarantine procedures and submit documents as proof that they are fit to travel.

Much of the country, including Batanes, is under modified general community quarantine, considered as a transition phase to the “new normal” wherein strict measures would be lifted. The country has recorded more than 391,000 COVID-19 cases, with 7,461 deaths and nearly 350,000 recoveries. (MNS)

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