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While PH is (still) in lockdown, rest of the world is gearing to restart

By Tanya Lara Published Mar 17, 2021 12:37 pm

Are we still in 2020? The Philippines this week marked its year-long lockdown with another curfew imposed over Metro Manila for the next two weeks, barring minors, “particularly 15 to 17,” from leaving their homes at all.

As COVID infections have been surging since March 1, President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed yet again COVID-19 as a “little thing,” while two high-ranking government officials tested positive in a period of five days. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on March 15 and PNP Chief Debold Sinas on March 11 confirmed they are infected with coronavirus.

It will be recalled that Sinas brazenly violated all quarantine rules in May last year amid the strictest lockdown by having a birthday party with more than 30 people, at times without facemasks, and alcohol was served despite the alcohol ban  (beer bottles could be seen under the tables in the hastily deleted pictures on the PNP’s own Facebook page). Sinas and his men were not sanctioned as hundreds of violators were arrested or fined across the country last year, and just last month a police officer flogged a quarantine violator in Cebu. 

On March 16, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said it would limit interntional arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to 1,500 from March 18 to April 18.

March 15 saw a record 5,404 new infections, bringing the country’s total cases to 631,320 and 12,848 deaths as of March 17.

Nearly 81% of those polled by IATA in 11 countries are more likely to travel once they are vaccinated (these countries have aggressively rolled out their vaccination programs).

According to the New York Times, our neighboring Asian country Taiwan has just 10 COVID deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases. It “has used its success to sell something in short supply: living without fear of the coronavirus. The relatively few people who are allowed to enter Taiwan have been coming in droves, and they’ve helped to fuel an economic boom.”

The report continued, “For the most part, the virus has been out of sight and out of mind, thanks to rigorous contact tracing and strict quarantines for incoming travelers.”

Last week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the results from its latest poll of recent travelers in 11 countries, showing growing confidence in a return to air travel, frustration with current travel restrictions and acceptance of a travel app to manage health credentials for travel.

“The top priority of everybody at the moment is staying safe amid the COVID-19 crisis. But it is important that we map a way to being able to reopen borders, manage risks and enable people to get on with their lives,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and CEO.

“That includes the freedom to travel. It is becoming clear that we will need to learn to live and travel in a world that has COVID-19. Given the health, social and economic costs of travel restrictions, airlines should be ready to re-connect the world as soon as governments are able to reopen borders.”

Reporting on the study, ANI news agency said that while 88% believe that when opening borders, the right balance must be struck between managing COVID risks and getting the economy going again, 85% believe that governments should set targets (like vaccine distribution) to reopen borders.

About 84% believe that COVID-19 will not disappear and there is need to manage its risks while living and traveling normally, 68% said their quality of life has suffered with travel restrictions. Nearly 49% believe that air travel restrictions have gone too far.

A total of 4,700 interviews were conducted online in 11 markets between Feb. 15 and 23. The sample size was 500 in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, India and Australia. In Chile, Japan, UAE and Singapore the sample size was 300.

The poll showed while there is public support for travel restrictions, it is becoming clear that people are feeling more comfortable with managing the risks of COVID-19.

People are also feeling frustrated with the loss of freedom to travel with 68% of respondents indicating their quality of life is suffering as a result. Travel restrictions come with health, social and economic consequences.

Nearly 40% of respondents reported mental stress and missing an important human moment as a result of travel restrictions. And over a third have said that restrictions prevent them from doing business normally.

The poll showed that 57% expect to be traveling within two months of the pandemic being contained (improved from 49% in September 2020). About 72% want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible (improved from 63% in September 2020).

Nearly 81% believe that they will be more likely to travel once they are vaccinated and 84% said they will not travel if there is a chance of quarantine at destination (largely unchanged from 83% in September 2020).

About 56% believe that they will postpone travel until the economy stabilizes (improved from 65% in September 2020).

There are some headwinds in travel trends. About 84% of travelers will not travel if it involves quarantine at destination. And there are still indications that the pick-up in business travel will take time with 62% of respondents saying they are likely to travel less for business even after the virus is contained. (With a report from ANI)