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Suspended

We are relieved, like other millions of Filipinos, that the reduced one-meter physical distancing—0.75-meter distance introduced on September 14—rule in public transportation has been suspended.

Suspended

We fully agree with a former adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases that we must not, as the Department of Transportation has suggested pretty much boldly, gradually cut back from the WHO-prescribed one-meter distance down to one foot.

That suggestion, at this time when health authorities have not succeeded in cutting down the coronavirus that has infected and killed thousands of Filipinos, invites scorn.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said previously his department was “receptive to an initial optimization of the physical distancing measure in public transport vehicles to 0.75 meters among commuters beginning Sept. 14” which he said would be “further be optimized to 0.5 meters after two weeks and to 0.3 meters after another two weeks.”

The law classmate of President Rodrigo Duterte had argued that current health measures, like the mandatory use of face masks and face shields, meant the one-meter physical distancing measure could be relaxed.

The chief implementer of the government’s plan against COVID-19, Secretary Carlito Galvez, said “optimizing” physical distance among passengers would help ease transportation woes among commuters.

“With public transportation, there is faster recovery of lives and livelihoods as we push forward under the new normal,” Galvez said.

But the infections and deaths continue to rise in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.

We agree with Dr. Anthony Leachon who said the one-meter physical distance between individuals in public transportation was the bedrock of preventing virus transmission, and that wearing a face mask or face shield was an aggregate to this basic precautionary measure.

To the point, he said the DOTR seemed to be working at cross-purposes from the Department of Health, which mandates the one-meter distance based on the WHO standard.

“This [policy] will be risky, reckless, counter-intuitive and will derail the flattening of the curve in the National Capital Region, which will... affect the entire Philippines. We have flattened the curve, but that is not completely irreversible. We will cause [a] resurgence of cases if we are reckless,” he warned.

What would truly give us comfort is if we begin seeing the numbers go down. Right now, however, at least we are assured that our leaders and decision makers are refraining from doing something that would likely have the opposite effect.

Topics: one-meter physical distancing , public transportation , Arthur Tugade
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