February 3, 2023

HEALTH OVER FLOWERS IN THIS PANDEMIC TIME

The decision of the chief executive and the executive committee of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. to again postpone the annual Panagbenga, making it two straight years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic might not be a popular move in a city whose economy is highly dependent on tourism.
But given the times, it remains the best option in safeguarding public health.
Besides, Baguio is not alone in having such decision, as many local government units have cancelled their respective festivals this year until such time the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out in the country.
We laud the BFFFI and city officials for their decision to put on hold any crowd-drawing activity in the wake of the new Covid-19 variant, especially following reports of a surge in post-holiday cases and deaths.
The daily attack rate has put almost all provinces in the Cordillera under high epidemic risk level, with Mountain Province, once a Covid-19-free area for several months in 2020, suddenly exhibiting a critical epidemic risk level.
We likewise laud the tourism sector and other sectors that derive their income from tourism for not raising a howl on the decision to postpone the festival that attracts more or less one million foreign and domestic visitors during the month-long festivity.
The postponement would mean the sectors dependent on tourism will have to bear the brunt of potential revenue loss. So too with thousands of workers, such as those in the hospitality and accommodation industry, who will have to endure the prolonged reduced workdays or suspension of work even after the Summer Capital has opened its doors for regulated tourism activities.
Right now, the city government cannot afford to sacrifice public health from a potential “super spreader” event that would be more costly in terms of healthcare and logistics than the potential revenue to be derived from holding one of the most popular festivals in the country.
The city has witnessed how difficult it was for our uniformed and civilian enforcers to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus during the launch of the Christmas event at Session Road and reopening of the night market at Harrison Road. What more with an event like the Panagbenga that is the biggest crowd-drawing event in the city?
The surge of Covid-19 cases in Mountain Province despite strict border control measures could be attributed to the influx of people in the landlocked province during the Yuletide holidays.
Post-holiday season, the daily attack rate in the province has lowered, showing that concerned LGUs are in control of the situation in their respective areas.
We agree that the most important thing for the city government and other LGUs to focus on in their respective localities is preparing for the rollout of their vaccination programs despite allegations of possible high-level corruption in the procurement of vaccines by the national government.
We challenge the city government to make the planned vaccine rollout a reality in its bid to achieve herd immunity, which would mean covering 70 percent of the city’s total population representing 190,000 individuals.
Being a pioneer in other aspects when it comes to coping with Covid-19 concerns, hopefully the city can establish a template for a localized vaccination program that other LGUs in the region can adopt.
Instead of holding crowd-drawing events such as the Panagbenga that incite people to go out, it remains best to encourage them to stay at home and leave their abodes only if and when necessary until the vaccine rollout is in full swing.