BY NOW, the one-meter distancing inside public transport gets a little leeway—a diminutive .25 meter less. It will be reduced to half a meter on Sept. 28, and .3 meter on Oct. 12.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced the new rules over the weekend after a series of meetings with agencies, including the Department of Health, the Economic Development Cluster, and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. The agency takes exception to the World Health Organization’s prescribed one-meter distancing because, anyway, people are wearing masks and face shields. That should be enough safeguard, it assured.
The DOTr says the easing up allows the transport sector to accommodate more passengers as it resumes operation after months of freeze under strict quarantine protocols.
Martin Delgra, chair of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), explains that the reduction would allow three more passengers into the modern jeepney while buses can add more passengers to the current average of 24 to 25.
As of now, however, the DOTr, aside from assuring that the protective masks and shields are enough to protect passengers from possible transmission, has not fully disclosed any scientific nitty-gritty behind the decimal reduction of distancing in public transport.
Medical experts have expressed concern over the eased distancing. A single case of a Covid-19 infected person within less than a meter from other passengers for a long period of time spells potential transmission.
We still push for one-meter social distancing in open spaces, and that’s the reason we don’t quite comprehend the DOTr’s recommended contraction in hazardous enclosures such as those in public transport. The public needs an explanation beyond the need to open up the public transport economy.
If there is to be an option to help open up public transport and address a shortage, perhaps, government can allow the traditional jeepneys meantime to add up to the fleet of modern jeepneys and buses already plying the streets. This might just be a way to help the displaced drivers who still haven’t transitioned into the modern jeepneys. At least, some humane intervention, while the pandemic is still around and while government is scratching its head on how to adequately help the citizens cope with the crisis.