IATF to review easing distancing rule in public transport: Palace

IATF to review easing distancing rule in public transport: Palace

MANILA – A government task force will review the easing of physical distancing in public transportation as health experts warned of possible future spikes in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection with this new policy, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this will be part of the agenda of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) meeting on Tuesday.

“In fairness, na-approve po talaga iyan ng IATF at noong in-approve po iyan wala naman pong nag-object (that was approved by the IATF and no one objected) because I was present in that meeting,” Roque said in an online press briefing.

Roque noted the resolution itself did not contain any distancing requirements, and objections to the policy came only after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced its implementation starting on Monday.

“Since DOTr stated kung ano iyong mga bagong spaces in between, nagkaroon po ng mga observations ang mga medical front-liners na hindi naman po pupuwedeng isantabi. So, pakikinggan po natin sila bukas (Since DOTr stated the new [measurements] of the spaces in between, there were observations made by medical front-liners that cannot be disregarded. So, we will have to hear from them tomorrow),” Roque said.

In the eased rule, physical distancing between commuters inside public transportation would be reduced from one-meter to 0.75 meters (approximately 2.5 feet) starting Sept. 14, provided that the “No Face Mask, No Face Shield, No Entry” policy, as well as the “No Talking and No Answering Calls” would be observed inside public transport.

The distancing would then be reduced to 0.5 meters (approximately 1.8 feet) on Sept. 28 and 0.3 meters starting October 12. The said protocol is subject to changes should there be any concern after the implementation, according to DOTr.

The Department of Health, meanwhile, has encouraged the public to opt for public utility vehicles (PUVs) “that can afford at least one-meter distancing”.

Transportation sector’s clamor

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday said he prefers to maintain one-meter physical distance among passengers in public transport vehicles, but noted that reducing it to 0.75 meters was a “collective decision.”

He said the easing of physical distancing in public transport was due to the clamor from the transportation sector.

“The DOTR recommended to the IATF to reduce the distance between the passengers to .75 and it was approved by the IATF last Thursday but again there are some clamor from the health sector to restudy the matter and I think tomorrow there will be another presentation from the health sector on their part but it has been approved by the IATF and it would actually provide more spaces for our commuters especially our workers,” Año said in a TV interview

Año said providing additional mass transport vehicles for commuters is better than reducing the physical distancing among passengers.

“Personally, I would like to abide by the one-meter standard of physical distancing. If we can actually provide more transport to our people rather than reducing the distance,” Año noted.

Año said the national government would continue to monitor the effects of this new regulation.

“There will be marshals in the public transportation and then we will review and of course monitor, we will check what is really the effect of this deduction of the distance and this sort of you know, still subject for changes if there are adverse effects on this deduction of distance,” he said.

On Saturday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the move to adjust physical distancing in public transportation by a few centimeters was a “carefully calibrated” decision to address the gap brought by the reopening of the economy.

“Pinag-aralan ito ng mga eksperto at pinag-aralan ito ng DOTr. So kami sa IATF ipinaubaya na namin sa DOTr ang responsibility to slowly open up ‘yong capacity, pero kailangan evidence-based (Experts have studied this as well as the Department of Transportation. This is why we at the IATF delegated to DOTr the responsibility to slowly open up the capacity granted that it’s evidence-based,” he said during a live stream on his Facebook page.

Nograles, who also co-chairs the IATF, explained that the country is slowly entering phase two of its “national action plan” against Covid-19, which is balancing health and economic aspects amid the new normal. (with reports from Lloyd Christopher Caliwan/PNA)

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