No less than Governor Joseph Cua, the chairman of the Provincial Inter-Agency Task Force, expressed his personal opposition against Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs) being allowed to travel and enter Catanduanes without submitting to a COVID-19 test.
For sometime, the provincial government tried its best to impose the negative test requirement on the traveling APORs, especially national government officials assigned to the island who frequently journey between their mainland homes and their offices in Catanduanes.
The chief executive said while he believes that APORs are not immune against coronavirus disease, he has to follow the IATF guidelines or risk being sanctioned.
The executive order allowing point-to-point travel and exempting APORs from the testing requirement had to be amended again last week. All travelers except, of course, APORs from national government agencies, have to submit a negative RT-PCR test before being allowed to enter the province.
In a recent press conference, local health officials were asked if they knew how many of the total cases came from APORs or were their close contacts.
Unfortunately, there was no available profile of the cases.
But a review of the past COVID cases would turn up several cases in which the APORs themselves brought the virus in from their close contacts in the mainland or elsewhere who had tested positive.
One of them, Tribune readers would be able to remember, was a member of the Bureau of Fire Protection who was infected by his girlfriend in an Albay town and unknowingly carried the infection back with him to his fire station.
Uniformed personnel, especially those of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army, routinely travel across Maqueda Channel either to take a brief break in their mainland homes or attend a training.
When they come back to their posts in the island, they go straight to work as long as they do not have symptoms and pass the health screening at the port.
According to a ranking PNP official, the IATF is cognizant of the fact that the police cannot afford to have a number of their personnel undergo quarantine as it would severely paralyze their operations.
While there is no evidence that asymptomatic APOR travelers are spreading the virus, they should take seriously the provincial government’s admonition that they should be aware of their responsibility to observe minimum public health standards, especially if they feel the onset of COVID-like symptoms.
The same lesson should be drummed into the heads of fully-vaccinated people, now that they have been allowed to travel with minimal restrictions, with their vaccination card serving as a key to open the border control gates.
Like the national government agency APORs, they should realize that they, too, remain vulnerable to so-called “breakthrough infections.”
Observing health protocols all the time would spare these APORs and vaccinated persons the possibility of bringing the virus home to their families as an unintended “pasalubong.”