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  • Is It Safe To Travel? 3 Tips From Tourism Sec Berna Puyat To Have A COVID-Free Vacation

    The number one reason Filipinos want to travel is for their sanity.
    by Kitty Elicay .
  • PHOTO BY courtesy of Laiya White Cove Beach Resort

    Since the beginning of the year, vacation spots in the Philippines have slowly been opening up to travelers, in the hope of restarting the tourism industry. Families were already looking forward to a private vacation — being cooped up in the home for a year is starting to take a toll on their well-being.

    But with COVID-19 cases on the rise the past few days, people are understandably growing cautious. They wonder if it’s still safe to travel amid the pandemic. For Tourism secretary Bernadette “Berna” Romulo-Puyat, it is possible but only if you are mindful of and strictly adhere to health and safety protocols.

    “A year ago, we didn’t know what to do. [Now] we have all these protocols in place… we get the best practices from other countries,” Sec. Puyat shares in an exclusive interview with SmartParenting.com.ph and other Summit Media Editors called Sandwich Sessions.

    According to Sec. Puyat, the number one reason Filipinos want to travel is for their sanity. But they are hesitant to travel because of the different and confusing protocols. Now that the government has standardized travel requirements, it might become a lot easier for travelers to get to their favorite destinations.

    How to have a safe vacation amid the pandemic

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    This is not an excuse, however, for tourists to disregard safety measures. If you’re planning a vacation with your family, Sec. Puyat shares the following reminders.

    1. Check local government unit (LGU) protocols of your chosen destination.

    While the IATF simplified the requirements, it is the up to the LGU whether or not they would require COVID-19 testing before travel. They also decide on age restrictions, so make sure to read up on their rules before booking your vacation.

    The Department of Tourism (DOT) has an app called Travel Philippines where you can get more details about reopened destinations and their latest advisories. Make sure to download before your trip to get accurate and verified information about your travels.

    2. Make sure to stay only in DOT-accredit hotels and accommodations.

    Sec. Puyat assures that before tourist destinations were reopened, it had to pass strict checking. Many of them are also located in Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) areas where the number of active COVID-19 cases are low or nonexistent.

    “All the health and safety protocols we crafted, we had to consult the private sector — what is possible, what is not possible. Then, it has to pass through the Department of Health (DOH), and the DOH gives it in turn to the health experts. So, when we finally allow a certain activity, it has passed through a lot of people,” she explains.

    “For establishments, it cannot open if it does not pass the health and safety protocols,” the secretary says, adding that the DOT ensures the destination is ready for anything before it can welcome travelers.

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    This makes it all the more important to stay only at DOT-accredited hotels and accommodations because they know what to do should a COVID-19 case be confirmed in their premises. “The guidelines are they have to close for 24 hours for disinfection and do contact tracing,” says Sec. Puyat.

    “There have been cases na may pinasara kami because nagpa-party sila at the height of the pandemic. Kung kailangan mo sampolan, sampolan. We are serious [about this],” she adds.

    3. Remember the 3 W’s.

    While the community quarantine has gone on, Sec. Puyat says it’s no reason for travelers to be lax about safety. Following the minimum health and safety protocols is one of the major ways you can help keep your family, and the people around you, safe during vacation.

    One of the biggest mistakes people do is that they think they are COVID-free just because they get a negative test result. “Even if you’re negative sa RT-PCR, which is the gold standard, it’s not a reason for you to party,” Sec. Puyat says.

    She personally adheres to the “3 W’s,” and encourages everyone to be mindful of it as well. “Wear a mask and face shield, watch your distance, and always wash your hands,” she says.

    Watching your distance is all the more important. “I basically stick to my bubble. Kasi if that person is not in your bubble, you don’t know where that person came from or if that person is as maingat as you are,” she says.

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    As of today, Sec. Puyat says there has been no outbreak because of tourism. Zero. But she is not concluding that it will never happen.

    “COVID is still there but we have to restart tourism because too many people lost their jobs. But we have to balance getting back jobs with health and safety protocols. I do not want to go back to lockdown a tourist destination because nagpabaya ang travelers,” she says.

    Where can you go under MGCQ? Click here for a mom-approved list!

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