Opinion

Punish the violators

Punish the violators

This is how the COVID virus keeps winning this battle: 2021 closed with authorities livid over a Filipina who arrived from the United States, reportedly skipped quarantine and partied in Poblacion, Makati while waiting for her COVID test result, which turned out positive.

As of Friday, 15 of the participants in the party had reportedly been infected or waiting for confirmation of infection. The Department of Tourism has ordered the Berjaya Makati Hotel to explain why Gwyneth Ann Chua was allowed to skip quarantine, amid reports that she had bragged of “connections.”

At the same time, the Bureau of Quarantine is preparing charges against Chua for violation of Republic Act 11332, the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act. Thanks to Chua’s irresponsible behavior, a restaurant where she had dinner had to subject its employees to COVID tests, disinfect the premises and assist in tracing those who came in close contact with her. The party venue, Kampai restobar, had to shut down and place its staff in isolation and subjected to testing during what should have been a peak period for its business.

Around Metro Manila, COVID cases are spiking, as health experts had warned after seeing the crowds where physical distancing was ignored, with some no longer wearing masks. While the holiday crush is seen as the reason for the case spike, experts are also on alert for the possible spread of Omicron.

In the United States and several countries in Europe where Omicron is now fueling an unprecedented surge in infections, cases are doubling every two to three days. The sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals, health experts have warned. Having flown in from the US, Chua’s infection is of particular concern, especially if it is established that she has Omicron.

The highly transmissible variant has forced the cancelation of thousands of flights across Europe and the US as well as New Year’s celebrations, and compelled fresh lockdowns that are ruinous to livelihoods. These scenarios are not unlikely if Omicron behaves in the same way in the Philippines, where about half of the population remains unvaccinated.

This is supposed to be the year when the world will beat COVID. Chua’s irresponsible behavior is an inauspicious start to the year and must be discouraged, through the full enforcement of the law against endangering public health. If the hotel was complicit in this criminal act, it must suffer the consequences. People and the economy have suffered enough.