MRT-3 halts operations starting July 7 as more employees get sick with COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) — The trains of the Metro Rail Transit line 3 will stop running on Tuesday, July 7 as more personnel get infected with COVID-19.

In a statement, MRT-3 management announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases decided to halt railway operations "following the increasing number of personnel who tested positive for COVID-19."

The Department of Transportation reported early Monday that 186 MRT-3 employees tested positive for the virus, including 11 ticket sellers stationed at North Avenue, Cubao, and Kamuning; two train drivers; two control center personnel; and one nurse from Taft Station. The rest are depot personnel.

The MRT-3 shutdown will last until July 11 to allow all of the railway's more than 3,200 workers to undergo RT-PCR testing. Thorough disinfection will be done during this period, including the depot, stations, and trains.

In the absence of a contact tracing system, DOTr said it will announce the stations where frontline personnel are based prior to testing positive for the virus. Commuters who visited these areas should take note if they exhibit symptoms and get tested.

MRT-3 Director for Operations Michael Capati added upon resumption of rail services, a manual logging of commuters and personnel will be done while they wait for a digital service.

He added that station staff will then be told to wear full protective gear while at work to reduce risks of transmission.

"The period of the shutdown may be shortened or extended, depending on the pace and results of RT-PCR testing. This also means that operations will resume even if the number of available personnel can only operate a limited number of train sets at the beginning," the statement read.

The train line already reduced the number of trains deployed today as more depot workers caught the disease. ​Contact tracing showed that the infected station personnel never had any contact with depot workers.

The train line, which resumed operations at limited capacity last month, needs at least 1,300 personnel to carry out limited operations. The management needs at least 964 more staff members to test negative before daily trips from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City can resume.

Those hired by the train’s maintenance provider as well as subcontractors will be tested as well, which will be administered by the Philippine Coast Guard assisted by the Philippine Red Cross.

DOTr said it will be providing 90 buses that will be dispatched every 3 minutes to cater to commuters, alongside 150 buses that will ply the Monumento and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange route.

As of July 6, the country recorded 46,333 cases of the disease, with more than 12,000 recoveries and around 1,300 deaths.