Baguio City

Baguio halts processing of visitor applications as COVID-19 cases rise

Sherwin de Vera
Baguio halts processing of visitor applications as COVID-19 cases rise

SESSION GREETINGS. Tourists and locals on Session Road in Baguio City, which re-opened its borders to leisure travelers in November 2021 after a drop in local COVID-19 cases.

Sherwin de Vera

(1st UPDATE) 'For now, we are only not allowing to add more to the current pre-approved travels that already exceeded 5,000 daily until January 8,' says Baguio tourism chief Alec Mapalo

VIGAN CITY, Philippines – Baguio City has suspended accepting visitor applications on Sunday, January 2, following a rise in COVID-19 infections and fears of a new spike due to the Omicron variant.

The City Tourism Office of Northern Luzon’s famous highland destination announced on its Facebook page a halt to the processing of registration on the Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA, visita.baguio.gov.ph) portal. 

All previously approved visits covered by Quick Response (QR) codes remain valid. The city will allow entry on the declared travel date, subject to the mandatory triage, the tourism office said. 

City tourism chief Alec Mapalo clarified in a Facebook post that while the processing of new visitor applications are suspended, the city will continue to accept visitors, apparently referring to those with pre-approved visits.

“For now, we are only not allowing to add more to the current pre-approved travels that already exceeded 5,000 daily until January 8. We’ll set new limits at reduced capacity and will announce such when finalized,” Mapalo said.

City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo announced on December 30 an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

She said the city’s positivity rate, or the number of persons testing positive of all those tested, jumped to 1.44% for the week of December 23 to 29 from only 0.2% during the week of December 16 to 22.

Galpo said the data came from the University of the Philippines Baguio Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and their office. 

Active cases climbed to 73 from only four on Christmas Day, based on the City Health Services Office record. 

The Philippine summer capital re-opened its borders to tourists in November 2021, increasing the daily limit to 4,000 on December 6 and 5,000 on December 15. 

The actual number of visitors is higher since hotels and other lodging houses with triage facilities can approve requests outside of the city’s daily limit. Those booked in these places skip the central triage and proceed directly to their hotels and inns.

The city maintains a strict entry protocol, with all visitors needing to register with Baguio VISITA. 

According to the City Tourism Office, border guards and triage workers send back between 50 to a hundred travelers daily due to incomplete requirements.

Baguio has 30,084 confirmed infections, with 720 deaths and more than 29,291 recoveries, since the Philippines announced the first cases in early 2020.

The city said 91% of its 281,000 target population was fully vaccinated by December 30. The target population is 70% of the total population. – Rappler.com

Sherwin de Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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