The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has ordered the Department of Transportation and other concerned agencies to craft protocols for the possible partial lifting of the public transport ban amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The DOTr, along with the departments of Interior, Health and Tourism, and the Bureau of Quarantine, have been directed to study and recommend protocols on the possible resumption of transportation via air, land, and sea travel as modes of transportation subject to existing protocols and guidelines on social distancing, isolation, and quarantine,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.
President Duterte was supposed to address the nation on the fate of the ECQ Thursday evening but decided to postpone it to today, according to his spokesman Harry Roque.
Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said a partial lifting of the public transport ban is being eyed for personnel of industries considered as essential services.
Tugade said the possibility of limited operation of public utility buses and trains in certain areas is backed by studies conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority.
He said the task force is also eyeing the resumption of operations of the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2, Metro Rail Transit Line 3, and the Philippine National Railways but only at 30-percent capacity.
To decongest checkpoints amid the lockdown, Roque said the police and military will soon apply the RapidPass system, a virtual identification system that makes use of QR code technology.
Qualified entities and individuals may apply for a RapidPass. Once the application is verified and approved, a QR code will be sent which will be presented to checkpoint personnel to facilitate faster travel.
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce his decision on whether to extend, lift, or modify the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine aimed at controlling further transmission of the coronavirus.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go earlier said he is in favor of a modified lockdown, with Metro Manila placed under extended ECQ for another two weeks.
“I am in favor of extending the enhanced community quarantine in NCR because it is here where we have a high volume of cases,” he said.
“In other provinces outside Metro Manila, we can implement a modified quarantine since we still need to check who can be allowed to go outside and for what reasons that should be considered as essential,” Go added.
Dr. Tony Leachon, a special adviser to the IATF, offered the same proposal for the extension of the lockdown in Metro Manila until May 15 to pave the way for mass testing.
“I would recommend extension in Metro Manila, National Capital Region from May 1 to 15, basically to increase the healthcare capacity— the testing centers, procure more test kits, improve the hospital facilities, and see the figures go down,” he said in a television interview.
“Mass testing is the game-changer based on several reference models like South Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand,” Leachon added.