The reduction of social distancing, which began September 14, aims to “optimize” and increase the carrying capacity of public transport vehicles, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) earlier said.
The physical distancing would be lessened from one meter to 0.75 meters and could be reduced further starting September 28 and to 0.3 meters beginning October 12.
Many expressed their concerns with the measure as the country continues to log a higher number of COVID-19 cases daily.
However, Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) vice-chairman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles assured the public that strict health protocols would be imposed in public transport vehicles.
Nograles added that other countries like Japan had adapted the reduction of physical distancing provided that passengers are required to face masks and face shields while traveling.
The DOTr also said the implementation of social distancing in public transport vehicles is based on science.
DOTr suspends implementation of reduced social distancing
“Pinagbasehan po namin dito ‘yung pag-aaral ng ibang eksperto, katulad po sa train ‘yung International Union of Railways, na nakikita na hindi naman ganun kailangan talagang kalaki ang distansya,” said DOTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon in an interview on Unang Balita.
(We based it on the study of other experts, such as the train of the International Union of Railways, which sees that it does not have to be that much distance.)
The DOTr cited medical experts noting that the virus transmission rate could still be decreased to 94 to 95 if the passengers would observe safety protocols such as wearing face mask and face shield alongside with regular disinfection of vehicles.
Meanwhile, Secretary Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of the government policy against COVID-19, also said earlier that there is a higher possibility to acquire COVID-19 inside private cars than in public vehicles.
“Kasi ang transport po talaga is a vehicle for recovery. Kasi kung wala po talaga yung tinatawag na transportation, we cannot recover po,” Galvez said in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and IATF members.