WE ARE experiencing a tourism slump along with a significant part of the world because of the emergence of the coronavirus disease 2019. I cannot imagine yet the magnitude of the economic losses that this epidemic will bring about, with all the flight and cruise cancellations, massive layoffs, travel bans, event postponements and cancellations, and more, but everyone's health and safety is of paramount importance.

Several highly documented cases of suspected Covid-19 transmissions occurred in tourism-related situations. The Diamond Princess cruise ship which was stranded outside Yokohama put not only the passengers at risk, but the crew and front liners who were inevitably trapped in a floating quarantine facility. Hundreds are also on a forced lock down at a hotel in Tenerife on a vacation which has turned into a holiday from hell. The escalation of cases in Daegu has been traced to a woman who attended a religious event.

The past month has been a series of importance announcements, guidelines on event cancellations, and advisories on how the tourism show must go on despite being on a stand-still. Following the declaration of Enhanced Community Quarantine and the subsequent closure of hotels and accommodation establishments, only tourism-related establishments that remain operating at the most basic levels are those hotels which have long-term guests who checked-in prior to the proclamation and those which provide lodging facilities to workers of Business Process Outsourcing or export firms. These hotels have to ensure the safety and well-being of their personnel.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has also announced the travel ban to foreigners visiting our country until the quarantine is lifted and will not be issuing visas anymore. Exempted are those foreign spouses and children of Philippine nationals.

In the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, city and barangay events until June 12 have been cancelled, in anticipation that we might have to ride this out longer than expected when the worst case comes. We will have many reasons to celebrate once the worst is over, but now is the time to focus on how to stay alive.

The Department of Tourism has coordinated with the Department of Labor and Employment as asked those in the tourism sector to submit applications for the TUPAD program. TUPAD is an acronym that means Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced workers and provides emergency employment assistance. There are also 24-hour DOT assistance desks in our airports for stranded guests and OFWs. Several government agencies have also announced other forms of assistance and consideration to those affected by the current pandemic, like the Bureau of Internal Revenue which extended the deadline for filing of taxes to May 15, 2020, and the Department of Budget and Management which announced that contractual and job-order employees in the government will continue to receive their wages during the quarantine period.

On a lighter note, a positive outcome from Covid-19 is the significant decrease in the carbon and nitrogen dioxide emissions in China and Northern Italy to date, as reported by experts, mainly from lesser industrial activity and decreased transportation journeys. The rest of the world will follow with a lot of aviation activities grinding to a halt and unnecessary travel being curbed.

For those who are under quarantine, remember that this is not the time to travel, but enjoy your staycation in the comfort of your homes. Do not go out and take the risk if you do not want to arrive at your final destination yet. Keep safe everyone!