ALTHOUGH this issue is considered “water under the bridge” since the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has temporarily suspended the implementation of its plan to reduce the distance between passengers inside public utility vehicles (PUVs) after meeting strong opposition and receiving flak from other government agencies, medical organizations and the public, President Rodrigo Duterte still has to decide on the matter next week.
I am writing this to stimulate intellectual and academic discussions as this may be pursued again in the future by the proponent once we relax our quarantine status.
I cannot fully understand and comprehend why the DOTr is pushing this plan. The agency proposed to reduce the required physical distancing between passengers inside public transport units to 0.75 or 3/4 meter from the current one meter to increase ridership. According to the DOTr, once the 0.75-meter distance is implemented, it will be reduced further to 0.5 or 1/2 meter after two weeks and to 0.3 or 1/2 after another two weeks. This was a subject of a heated discussion among Cabinet members in one of their meetings last week after it was supposed to be implemented nationwide last Sept 14.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella opposed the move. He issued a memorandum to the City Transportation Office (CTO) and the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to retain the one-meter distance inside PUVs. His move is supported by Department of Health (DOH) 7 officials and other medical societies in the city.
DOTr presented health experts (kuno) to support their theory. The gradual reduction of the physical distancing in PUVs’ capacity will help rebuild the country’s economy.
What? That is their only purpose? For two or three or more passengers, they are willing to expose everybody else to the possibility of infection? Why not dispatch additional PUVs if there’s a shortage of public transportation or allow traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs) to operate again? Whom are we going to believe, those unknown experts presented by DOTr or those experts from the US?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, “Social distancing also called physical distancing means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household. To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people, who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
“The more individuals interact with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread. The risk of Covid-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as follows:
1) Lower risk: Food service limited to drive through, delivery, take out and curb-side pick up.
2) More risk: On-site dining limited to outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least six feet.
3) Even more risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity reduced to allow tables to be spaced at least six feet.
4) Higher risk: On-site dining with both indoor and outdoor seating. Seating capacity not reduced an
d tables not spaced at least six feet apart.”
We are very strict in implementing social distancing in bars and restaurants but we tend to relax in public transportation.
Covid-19 is mostly spread through respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze. It is through that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practice such as hand washing, staying at home when sickly and environmental cleaning and disinfection are important principles that are covered.
According to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO), physical distancing helps limit the spread of Covid 19. This means we keep a distance of at least one meter from each other and avoid spending time in crowded places or in groups.
What is the purpose of social distancing as defined by WHO? “Social and physical distancing measures aim to slow the spread of disease by stopping chains of transmission of the virus and preventing new ones from appearing. These measures secure physical distancing between people of at least one meter and reduce contact with contaminated surfaces, while encouraging and sustaining virtual social connection within families and communities.”
We should not take any chances or do something that is risky or dangerous. We cannot see our enemy.