The provincial government of Aklan is now conducting free mass testing for tourism workers in the world-famed Boracay Island following the tourist destination’s first confirmed COVID-19 case last December.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat had earlier asked Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores to use the allocated P10-million funding for the free reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for the island’s tourism workers after an employee of a high-end resort in Station 1 tested positive for the dreaded disease last Dec. 14.
“When the island recorded the first positive case on Dec. 14, 2020, the provincial government conducted the testing of all the 200 hotel employees to a swab test and all were negative for the presence of the dreaded virus,” Miraflores told Puyat in his response letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Manila Bulletin.
He said 1,619 tourism workers in Boracay, particularly those who work in accommodation establishments, have already been swabbed and all tested negative after the continuation of the free mass testing last Dec. 26.
“Since Dec. 26, 2020 up to the present, the province-managed Ciriaco S. Tirol Hospital was likewise commissioned to swab employees of establishments with 10 to less number of workers,” he added.
Nine more teams will be deployed from Jan. 18 to 22 to continue the swabbing of tourism-related workers. Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Atty. Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones said that the amount was downloaded last Nov. 19.
The funding is intended to test around 4,000 tourism workers on the island as the Tourism department is expecting more local tourist arrivals in the coming months.
Resort workers now tested
The Manila Bulletin spoke to some high-end properties in Boracay to confirm the report submitted by the provincial government to the DoT.
Last year, a report said some tourism stakeholders were clueless about the testing program.
A general manager of a four-star resort said they received a communication from the provincial government dated Dec. 26, 2020 informing them about the testing of its 45 employees. But it was not yet carried out as the provincial government later sent an advisory last Jan. 8 informing them about the postponement of the testing program “until further notice.”
A luxury property said more than 200 employees have availed themselves of the RT-PCR testing from Dec. 26 to 28 and all tested negative for COVID-19.
A resort in Station 2 said its 25 employees have been tested and all of them have taken the free swab tests.
Latest data released by the Malay, Aklan Tourism Office said 19,164 tourists visited Boracay from Dec. 1 to January 10.
A spike in arrivals was recorded during the holiday season from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2 Majority came from the National Capital Region.