THE provincial government of Aklan has yet to carry out free RT-PCR testing among Boracay Island’s tourism workforce, despite the funds given to it by the Department of Tourism (DOT) last November.
This came to light after an employee of a high-end resort in Boracay tested positive for Covid-19 this week. The staff had arrived from his hometown in Lezo, Aklan, and showed Covid symptoms such as a sore throat, two days later. “He is now in quarantine,” according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat.
She added, the employee’s six other companions in the staff house “tested negative for the virus using RT-PCR, but I said they should be quarantined just the same, just to be safe.”
She stressed, though, that the DOT’s marketing arm, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), already “downloaded” P10 million to the local government headed by Gov. Florencio Miraflores last November 19 “to test for free via RT-PCR all those working in the tourism sector.”
In a letter to Miraflores on December 8, Romulo Puyat even asked for an update on the use of said funds, “such as number of people tested, amount of already spent, among others.” However, the free testing program was apparently never carried out, she told the BusinessMirror.
Several hoteliers interviewed on the island said they weren’t aware the Aklan government was supposed to provide them free RT-PCR testing for their staff. “Really? There’s free testing?” was the question of one resort manager to this paper.
Another said he had “heard about it before, but until now, we don’t have it.”
First case after reopening
Meanwhile, industry sources said the Covid-positive staff works at Discovery Shores Boracay on Station 1. “He just had a day off in Lezo, Aklan, but there’s a Covid case there, so it’s possible he got it there because when he returned, he showed symptoms already,” said one source. The employee is reportedly 28 years old, male, and took his day off on December 14. He returned to Boracay the next day, and went to work.
Another source said that when the hotel employee exhibited symptoms, “the hotel conducted an antigen test, but according to the Municipal Health Office, the hotel didn’t coordinate with them before the antigen test was given.”
This is the first Covid-19 case on the island after it was reopened to domestic tourism on October 1.
One source intimated that the “resort’s guests were not informed of the Covid-positive employee, even if he worked at the Food and Beverage department. Whether he is a cook or a server, they should still have told the guests because that’s precisely what we are trying to avoid, a super-spreader event.”
Romulo Puyat said initial reports showed the hotel followed the correct protocol in isolating and quarantining the staff, and contacting health officials. She said the hotel checked the other staff for possible infection.
She noted the Covid-positive staff, though, was a “back of housekeeping attendant and didn’t mingle with guests.”
According to hoteliers on the island, however, once a staff is suspected to have Covid, the LGU protocol is to isolate and quarantine the staff and immediately call the barangay health emergency response team. The BHERT will then take the suspected Covid-positive patient for RT-PCR testing. “No, we are not supposed to give them a Covid test, since we don’t have medical personnel,” said one resort owner.
As of press time, the resort’s parent Discovery World Corp. (DWC) had yet to revert with a response on its Covid-positive staff in Boracay, despite repeated followups, although its president, Jose C. Parreño Jr., texted this reporter that he would have his public relations staff call. A listed concern of the Tiu-led JKTC Equities Inc., DWC’s share price closed at P2.24 on Tuesday, unchanged from Monday.
In the first nine months to September 2020, DWC recorded a net loss after tax of P278.31 million, larger than the P10-million net loss in the same period last year. Primarily engaged in the hotel and resort business, DWC owns and operates other properties such as Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay, Discovery Suites in Ortigas Business District, and Club Paradise in Coron.