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IATF mulls vaccine passports

IATF mulls vaccine passports

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is discussing the possibility of issuing “vaccine passports” to those inoculated against COVID-19, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Emmanuel Rey Caintic said yesterday.

“We are going into creating ‘vaccine passports’ for international sea and air travel. I just cannot share here because the IATF is already discussing this,” Caintic said, adding that government’s pandemic task force is finalizing this week the policies and guidelines for the vaccination pass.

Some countries, particularly those in Europe, are planning to issue and require vaccination passports or certificates to help stop the spread of COVID-19 across borders.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had opposed such a strategy, emphasizing that “preferential vaccination of travelers could result in supply shortages for priority populations considered at high-risk of severe COVID-19.”

It also recommended that those already vaccinated should not be exempted from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures.

Subsidized swab tests

In a bid to spur local tourism destinations, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) resumed the 50 percent subsidized RT-PCR testing for Filipino travelers.

“The Philippine tourism industry has been adversely affected by the pandemic. The subsidy aims to encourage domestic travel by aiding the tourists in fulfilling the RT-PCR test requirement and to enable them to visit their destination of choice at a lesser cost,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

A nasal swab test usually costs up to P3,800 but the TPB subsidy cuts it in half to P1,900. TPB allotted P35.17 million to cover the costs of subsidized testing for 22,711 domestic travelers. It plans to extend the subsidy until Dec. 31 and benefit additional 13,333 local tourists.

With the easing of domestic travel restrictions, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar urged the public to check the rules and regulations in their destinations before traveling, because some local government units (LGUs) impose their own guidelines on accepting visitors.

Malacañang earlier announced that domestic travelers from National

Capital Region (NCR) Plus areas will be allowed into other general community quarantine (GCQ) areas provided their RT-PCR tests are negative.

Job losses

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) senior vice president Virginia Messina said that roughly two million tourism workers in the Philippines lost their jobs last year due to the pandemic, adding that these livelihoods can return if government reopens the country to foreign tourists.

In a study, the WTTC reported that the country’s tourism revenue slid from $90 billion in 2019 to just $52.8 billion in 2020, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) bearing the brunt of losses.

Local carriers have cancelled flights to and from Dubai until June 15 after the government extended the ban on travelers from the United Arab Emirates.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) said its weekly Manila-Dubai-Manila flights will resume on June 16, while Cebu Pacific said flights to and from Dubai are cancelled up to June 15.

The government has extended restrictions imposed on inbound travel from UAE, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Oman from June 1 to 15. – Elijah Felice Rosales, Emmanuel Tupas, Richmond Mercurio

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