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Asia Minute: A week of pandemic changes in the Philippines

Philippines manila covid tourism travel
Basilio Sepe/AP
A foreign passenger wearing a protective mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus disease arrives at Manila's International Airport, Philippines on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The Philippines lifted a nearly 2-year ban on foreign travelers Thursday in a lifesaving boost for its tourism and related industries as an omicron-fueled surge eases. (AP Photo/Basilio Sepe)

As pandemic restrictions continue to ease in the state and around the country, conditions are also shifting in many locations around the Asia Pacific. For example, this has been a week of significant change in the Philippines.

More students were back in classrooms in the Philippines Friday — and others will be joining next week.

As of Thursday, fully-vaccinated travelers from 157 countries, including the United States, can now visit without quarantine — as long as they test negative for COVID-19.

Case numbers are falling across the Philippines — some 4,500 new cases Thursday.

Last month daily new infections peaked at about nine times that level.

Conditions are improving in the Manila area — where the positivity rate this week was down to about 9% — roughly the same as Maui County.

Still, if you check the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you’ll find the Philippines still listed under level four of the CDC’s risk assessment, calling the incidence of the virus is “very high.”

The CDC recommends Americans “avoid travel to these destinations” — which includes more than 130 other countries as well — from Canada to the United Kingdom.

But the Philippines is starting to slowly gear up its tourism industry.

The Philippine publication the Inquirer reports the Bureau of Immigration is expecting visitor arrivals to bump up by nearly a third in the initial days of loosened restrictions — with further increases in coming months.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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