Test relief

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - March 7, 2021 - 12:00am

The latest in the relentlessly shifting slew of regulations from our authorities is that no further coronavirus swab tests will be required before allowing travelers to hop from city to city and island to island.

The test requirement was taken out together with two others, that annoying medical clearance from the local barangay as well as the travel authority from the Task Force COVID shield-Philippine National Police clearance.

These two I’m in full agreement with, as they were absurd and served no other purpose than to make traveling inconvenient. So at best, all they did was to dissuade those whose reasons were illegitimate, and criminals with PNP records, from traveling to other areas.

These requirements were useless if they were meant to assure that no one with COVID would be able to export the virus to another locality. Imagine, a medical officer of the barangay would issue a medical clearance, but no actual physical examination of the traveler would even be conducted. The only requirement would be to show up the next day to get the piece of paper? How valid would that clearance even be for the destination city?

As for the PNP clearance - how would the local police know whether the thousands of people who trooped to their stations had legitimate business reasons to travel?

At worst, these requirements exposed the citizenry even more to infection risks, as they all had to line up at their local barangays and PNP offices to list down their names and then come back the next day to pick up the precious certificates.

It’s definitely excellent news that these two will now be consigned to the dustbin of failed experiments in pandemic governance. However, what’s scary is the scrapping of the swab test requirement. Imagine if no traveler took the test, and all 300 or so passengers take an hour’s flight to Cebu or Bohol. That single hour, where a single positive passenger who perhaps did not even know herself whether she was positive, would then breath continuously in and out her virus-laden lungs, might be enough exposure to infect the rest of the planeload.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, as there is some literature out there that planes have superior filtration systems and whatnot. But if the purpose of the amendment was to encourage tourism, well, lemme tell you, I’m certainly not encouraged to travel. At least, not until and unless I’ve been vaccinated. Because I for one would not be willing to take the risk that another passenger on my flight might have COVID.

There is a sliver of hope; the regulations left it to destination cities and municipalities to impose more stringent requirements, if they saw fit. From the trickle of news reports that came out, the more sensible ones like Boracay and Cebu City have announced that they are maintaining the COVID swab test requirement.

I’ve been to Boracay twice just this year alone, and believe me, anxiety levels decrease substantially with the knowledge that all the passengers onboard the plane have tested negative for the virus (except for the twerps that faked their test results and later on, tested positive, those idiots deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent for endangering their fellow passengers).

Baguio City, on the other hand, has lifted the testing requirement. Which shouldn’t be as big a deal because travelers can bring their own cars and therefore, there is no risk of exposure from co-passengers. With inter-island travel that need planes or perhaps, even ships, as a mode of travel, the chances of breathing virus droplets become greater.

Other cities without testing? Let’s see how helpful that will be to their tourism numbers. Or to their respective wrestling matches with the coronavirus nightmare.

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