Gwen rejects ‘Bakuna Bubble’

·5 min read

CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia does not agree with the “Bakuna Bubble” approach of the Cebu City Government incentivizing the Covid-19 vaccination program that limits only to vaccinated individuals access to some air-conditioned establishments in Cebu City.

In a press conference held in Boljoon during the Caravan of Provincial Government Services on Sept 16, Garcia said the Bakuna Bubble is not an incentive but punitive to the public, stressing that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is currently looking into the issue.

Garcia said an incentivized vaccination program is like what the Cebu Province implemented which involves allowing a shortened five-day quarantine period to fully vaccinated returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arriving in Cebu.

“If we incentivize, (then it should be) like what we did on the possible five days quarantine for the fully vaccinated. That’s an incentive. But I guess now, the DILG is even having that reviewed, that those who are not vaccinated cannot eat indoors. Maybe that’s not incentivizing. That’s punitive. That’s why that’s being reviewed, and I would not (impose that),” Garcia said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

Cebu City’s vaccine bubble refers to the perks given to vaccinated individuals, such as allowing them to dine indoors, access to services in salons and spas, and entry to indoor sports venues and indoor tourist attractions.

Quarantine policy

Moreover, Garcia said she will meet with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), after it allegedly allowed only ROFs from green countries to qualify for the five-day quarantine, stressing that the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) allowed ROFs to undergo the five-day quarantine if they can show an international vaccination card or certification from the government that they are fully vaccinated.

“I have to talk with Owwa. As far as as we agreed, there was no distinction, and what the BOQ said was that so long as you can present an international vaccination card or certification from the government that you are vaccinated,” Garcia said.

Under Inter-agency Task Force Resolution 128-A which took effect on July 26, 2021, fully vaccinated international arriving passengers to the Philippines must undergo a seven-day facility-based quarantine and RT-PCR testing on the fifth day, if their port of origin is a Green List country/jurisdiction/territory (those classified by the IATF as “Low Risk”), they stayed exclusively in that Green List area in the 14 days prior to their arrival in the Philippines, and their vaccination status can be independently verified and confirmed by Philippine authorities as valid and authentic on their arrival in the country.

If any one of the conditions above is not met, then the fully vaccinated international arriving passenger must undergo a 10-day facility-based quarantine and a four-day home quarantine, including an RT-PCR test on the seventh day.

Countries are classified under the Green (low risk), Yellow (moderate risk) and Red (high risk) categories based on their Covid-19 incidence.

Last Sept. 7, Garcia issued a memorandum shortening the facility quarantine to five days for fully vaccinated OFWs and ROFs, saying Cebu can come out with the RT-PCR results on the same day of the test.

Meanwhile, Garcia said her requirement to have drivers, conductors and workers in poorly ventilated establishments wear air purifiers had been proven to be effective since Covid-19 cases in the Province continue to go down.

This, even with the Province not implementing a liquor ban, Garcia said.

The governor said she regularly gets reports from the chief of police in every town and city on the apprehended vehicles and individuals violating health protocols and guidelines. The Philippine Coast Guard continues to secure all ports of entry in Cebu Province.

“We must be doing something right, like for example, in NCR (National Capital Region), the cases go up, then down, then up again recently. In spite of the number of those who insist that they know better, who were screaming for a lockdown, we did not do that because very many people would have suffered. Then we insisted on public transport that is open without air conditioning. And we put up the checkpoints to see to it that this would be followed, that there would be no overloading and that they would wear the personal air purifiers,” Garcia said.

She said her critics focused on her endorsement of “tuob” or steam inhalation last year even if this had been proven to be effective in the fight against Covid-19 and now the critics are focusing on her implementation of the air purifier requirement.

Garcia did not give details on how tuob had been proven effective.

Garcia added that she distributed air purifiers to the PNP personnel assigned in the checkpoints and that the Provincial Government also distributed vitamins to the drivers and conductors but later subsidized the vitamins.

Provincial Health Office data show that as of Sept 11, 2021, Cebu Province had 2,978 active cases, down from 5,015 active cases on Aug. 21, 2021.

The Department of Health 7 put the figures for Cebu Province at 3,879 active cases on Sept. 11, 2021, down from 5,848 active cases on Aug. 21.

Garcia said an additional 3,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines will arrive next week and will be distributed to the province.

Earlier this month, Garcia said the Provincial Government supports the Covid-19 vaccination program, but also stressed that getting vaccinated is “a matter of choice.”

Some 359,193 people in Cebu Province have received at least a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Cebu Province’s population is over three million.

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