A study by the University of the Philippines-College of Public Healh (UP-CPH) on the safety of using motorcycle taxis for public transport supports the return of Angkas, the country’s leading app-based motorcycle taxi service.
The comprehensive paper expounds on the viability of the motorcycle as a means to restore mobility despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while showing detailed guidelines that can keep both biker-driver and passenger safe.
“We worked with the UP-CPH team to conduct a science-backed study on how to make the motorcycle taxi safe in the time of COVID-19. While we are all looking forward to this day when we’re allowed to operate once more, we wanted to make sure that we are compliant with all safety regulations for the safety of our riders and our passengers," said George Royeca, Angkas chief transport advocate.
Angkas, which is primed to deploy its 30,000-strong biker pool into the roads of the National Capital region very soon,
has been actively collaborating with the UP-CPH to devise strategies and form recommendations on how to make motorcycle taxi rides safe amid the pandemic.
"Public health is innately collaborative. Kailangan magkatulungan. We continue to understand this disease better, as we tackle health challenges today," said UP-CPH dean Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr.
“Angkas has taken the lead in ensuring that motorcyle taxis are properly equipped and safe for public use, which makes them more than prepared to perform public transport once that door opens. Motorcycle taxis can be allowed to operate if health and safety guidelines we have recommended are strictly implemented," Belizario added.
Given that COVID-19 thrives in poorly ventilated spaces, the UP-CPH study pointed out that motorcycle taxis help reduce this danger as both biker-partners and passengers are not confined in an enclosed structure.
Citing research done at Southern University in Guangzhou, China, the study emphasized that higher wind velocity has a high possibility of decreasing confirmed case counts due to the dilution and removal of droplets, hence shortening the suspension time of micro-organisms in the air.
“A moving motorcycle naturally creates sufficient ventilation which is crucial in preventing COVID-19 transmission,” Royeca said.
“We have followed the safety protocols mentioned in the study. When the local government units partnered with us to help bring their health workers to and from their destinations, there has not been one incident of virus transmission,” he added.
While the study noted that plastic shields that act as barriers between passengers and partner-bikers still have to meet the approval of peer-reviewed studies, the use of non-permeable barriers is allowed to minimize possible person-to-person transmission of the virus.
Angkas’ shield has been approved for use by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). Dozens of Angkas shields had been donated to motorcycle-owning healthcare workers in several cities such as Pasay, Pasig, and Manila during the lockdown.
The UP-CPH study also recommended other layers of protection for motorcycle taxi use, such as the verification of identity through facial recognition, and contact tracing capability.
Royeca said contactless payments which will lessen the exchange of physical money between passenger and driver have been added to the Angkas app.
A contact tracing tool has also been embedded in the Angkas software, which could help in detecting the location of infected individuals if needed.
Angkas also has constant reminders advising partner-bikers and passengers alike to disclose information to the platform provider should they test positive for COVID-19.
Royeca maintained infection prevention and the constant updating of control measures remain priorities for Angkas.
“We understand that it is crucial to re-open the economy, and with it gradually mobilize the people through effective and safe modes of transport. However, we need to put utmost importance on our biker partners’ and our passengers’ safety with the utmost importance," he said.
“Safety has always been the core of Angkas' operation. In this time of pandemic, we consider it our civic responsibility to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and we will continue to innovate and be vigilant as our bikers soon begin bringing passengers to their destinations again," Royeca added.