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Commuters, prepare to be ‘closer’ to other passengers soon—even if it’s against WHO guidelines

Commuters, prepare to be ‘closer’ to other passengers soon—even if it’s against WHO guidelines


ICYMI: We now have 253,000 COVID-19 cases, as of writing of which 24.6 percent or over 60,000 are active cases, according to the latest Department of Health bulletin.

In another numbers news, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) just announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved their proposal to reduce physical distancing from the World Health Organization-recommended minimum one meter to 0.75m. 

According to the statement put out by DOTr on social media, the move will “increase ridership in public transportation by optimizing or reducing the physical distance between commuters.”

Inside the MRT-3, where the current social distancing protocol is one meter apart—and no talking and answering phone calls. Photo courtesy of DOTr-MRT 3 Facebook page

Oh, and hear this: it doesn’t stop at 0.75 meter. It gets closer. DOTr said it could be further “optimized” to 0.5 meter after two weeks and to 0.3 meter after another two weeks.

DOTr assured the public, however, that with strict health protocols such as the mandatory use of face masks and face shields by commuters, “the one meter physical distancing measure being observed can be safely adjusted to allow for optimization of ridership.” 

[READ: How to keep yourself virus-free on commutes]

EDC also said they consulted health experts on the proposal. The said figures, both agencies said, are also backed by data based on physical simulation.

They also did the math on how many passengers can fit if the social distancing measures were relaxed. For the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1, which has a capacity of 155 passengers at one meter apart per train set, reducing the required distance to 0.75 meter will accommodate 49 more people. At 0.3 meter, a total of 300.

For buses, easing the social distancing measure will also mean allowing passengers to stand in the aisle. Photo courtesy of DOTr Facebook page

For buses and modern jeepneys, easing the distance between commuters would also mean that standing passengers will now be allowed to occupy the aisles.  

Airplanes and ferries will be subject to reduced social distancing measures, too.

The transport agency said this move will translate to more employees and workers that will be able to reach their workplaces minimizing the transportation woes of Filipino commuters.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade added, “With public transportation, there is faster recovery of lives and livelihoods as we push forward under the new normal.” 

DOTr was supposed to address the public today through a virtual press conference on the matter but it was deferred until further notice. The agency cites the Department of Health (DOH)’s requested to meet with DOTr and EDC to discuss “the reduction of passenger social distance requirements to a minimum when using face shields and face masks in public transport.”



Header photo courtesy of DOTr Facebook page

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Can face shields alone protect us from coronavirus? Not quite. Study shows how droplets move around it

How to keep yourself virus-free on commutes

Routes and regulations: A commuter’s guide for jeepneys’ return on the road © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.