Philippines postpones reopening to foreign tourists after 21 months of border restrictions

Published on : Thursday, December 2, 2021

Struggling Filipino artist Alberto Nunez was looking for a change in fortunes this week, till the news of a new COVID-19 variant surfaced,thereby crushing his hopes for a long-awaited boost in business.

The Philippines has stalled its planned reopening to foreign tourists after 21 months of border restrictions, bringing uncertainty over the risks posed by the new Omicron COVID-19 variant that has caused global concern.

Nunez had sold paintings to tourists on the island of Boracay for over 17 years, normally earning $600 a week before the pandemic. Now, he earns only $100.

“When I heard the news that the entry of foreign tourists was suspended, I was dismayed since our market isn’t that strong yet,” said Nunez.

The Philippines has been one of the worst-affected countries in Asia in the wake of the coronavirus, with 2.8 million cases and 48,000 deaths.

Although average new daily infections have fallen sharply to 1,644 in November from 18,579 in September, the vaccination rate remains low, with just over two-thirds of the population vaccinated till now.

Boracay, popular for its white sands and stunning green waters, had benefited from easing of rules to allow more domestic travel, but Nunez fears that all this might be short-lived.

Nunez said, “I am also worried after hearing the news about the new variant and that we may go into lockdown again. That will really affect us, we may lose our livelihood again.”

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