The eased physical distancing between passengers – from one meter to 0.75 meters began on Monday amid criticisms, including from Vice President Leni Robredo, who questioned if the decision is based on science.
“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.
“Actually po kung titignan niyo ‘yung mga datos ngayon, ang Pilipinas na lang ang nagpapatupad ng one-meter distancing sa mga railways natin,” he said.
(Actually, if you look at the data now, only the Philippines implements one-meter distancing on our railways.)
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended at least a one-meter distance between individuals should be observed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Reduced social distancing based on science – DOTr exec
Tuazon, however, argued that this protocol was based on a study in the 1980s.
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.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a member of the government’s COVID-19 task force, said he preferred the one-meter distance between commuters, but clarified the reduced social distancing is a “collective decision.”
“Personally, I would like to abide by the one-meter standard of physical distancing. If we can actually provide more transport to our people rather than reducing the distance,” Año told ANC.
For Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations or ACTO president Efren de Luna, the government should have allowed public transportation modes to operate first before imposing reduced social distancing.