A female balikbayan who returned from the United States earlier this week is under probe after authorities confirmed she violated quarantine protocols to party in Poblacion, a red-light district in Makati City.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) identified the woman as Gwyneth Anne Chua, who stayed at the Berjaya Makati Hotel as per its show-cause order to the management. Earlier this week, Chua skipped quarantine protocols to attend a party in Poblacion after allegedly paying the facility to avoid isolation. She later tested positive for COVID-19. Her close contacts have been infected with the virus as well.
Chua, who’s infamously dubbed as “Poblacion Girl” on social media, is facing legal complaints as government authorities have been investigating the incident. But in the meantime, let’s take a look at the controversy and how it all began.
Dec. 22 - Chua checks in at the Berjaya Hotel
According to DOT, Chua checked in at the Berjaya Makati Hotel upon arrival from the United States.
Dec. 23 - Chua parties at Poblacion
Chua was seen partying at an unidentified bar in Poblacion, Makati City, and had dinner at an unnamed restaurant. In an interview with Teleradyo on Dec. 30, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat said the government agency has affidavits, photos, and other proof showing that she indeed skipped quarantine.
Puyat said Chua boasted that she got out of the hotel due to her ‘connections,’ where she allegedly availed of “absentee quarantine” by paying the quarantine facility to avoid isolation.
“Ang narinig namin nagya-yabang daw siya dahil naka-skip siya ng quarantine. May mga connections daw siya… Pagka-alam ko, umamin na naman siya that she cut quarantine. Umamin naman siya,” Puyat said.
Dec. 26 - Chua gets tested for COVID-19
In a separate interview with ANC, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said Chua got tested for COVID-19, a “clear indication” she violated the country’s health protocols.
Dec. 27 - Chua tests positive for COVID-19
Chua was diagnosed with COVID-19 upon receiving the results of her test.
Dec. 29 - Chua gets “extracted” from the Berjaya Hotel
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat confirmed that Chua has been “extracted” from the Berjaya Makati Hotel in coordination with the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ).
Chua is in isolation in the quarantine facility of another hotel, as of this writing.
Dec. 29 - Berjaya Hotel ordered to explain why Chua skipped quarantine
DOT issued a show-cause order against the Berjaya Makati Hotel, ordering the management to explain why Chua was able to skip the mandatory quarantine within three days. A copy of the order was posted on a report from ABS-CBN News.
“In the interest of due process, you are hereby directed to submit to this Office.... a written explanation why the hotel should not be penalized for violation of the foregoing issuances,” DOT’s letter read.
Neither Chua nor the Berjaya Hotel has issued a statement on the incident, as of this writing. Meanwhile, PhilSTAR L!fe reached out to the Berjaya Hotel for a comment but has yet to respond.
“We'll see first, I have to wait first kung ano yung explanation nila. Pero nung tinanong ko kung ano yung kaso ng individual na nag-cut ng quarantine. It could be a fine, or imprisonment, or both,” Puyat told Teleradyo.
Dec. 31 - 15 test positive for COVID-19
Following the incident, Año told ANC that Chua might have infected “about 15 people.” “‘Yung problema, yung mga nakasama niya sa dinner and sa bar, ay mga nagpa-positive na rin... Ang sabi lang about 15 ‘yung nagpa-positive. We need to confirm that.”
It’s unclear whether these were the people whom Chua was seen with in Poblacion, as of this writing. However, more are coming out with information on the incident, according to the DILG Secretary.
“Ang mga ka-party niya, marami na ring nag-positive noon. Marami na ring may symptoms doon. We still don't know if it is (Omicron variant) because hindi pa, wala pang result yung genome sequencing niya,” Año said.
Dec. 31 - Chua to face raps over violating quarantine protocols
Chua is currently being probed by government authorities after the incident. Año said she and the Berjaya Hotel must be held “accountable for violating quarantine protocols” which is “under the law.”
Non-adherence to COVID-19 guidelines is a violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act. RA 11332 orders individuals to report “notifiable diseases” to the local health authorities.
Meanwhile, the BOQ said Chua will have to respond to a legal complaint that government authorities will file “soon.”
“The complaint against the individual involved in the recent case of violation is ready. The BOQ and the DOH are the complainants,” BOQ deputy director Roberto Salvador Jr. said.
Jan. 1, 2022 - Berjaya Hotel apologizes for quarantine breach
The Berjaya Makati Hotel apologized for failing to stop Chua from “jumping her quarantine” in a statement.
“This was the only incident of its kind in the nearly two years that we have served as a quarantine hotel, and we will make sure that it is the last. We can only make up for it by being an exemplar of compliance moving forward,” the hotel’s statement read.
The hotel added that employees “found errant by commission or omission” will be dealt with “severity” to prevent a repeat of what happened.
Following its apology, Berjaya said they will be “fully cooperating with all government agencies” in investigating the incident.
The Philippines has recorded 4,600 COVID-19 cases as of Jan. 2, the highest since Nov. 1.