Gov't approves easing of physical distancing rules in public transport

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) — The Department of Transportation said Friday the strict physical distancing guidelines for public transportation will be eased gradually to accommodate more passengers.

It said the proposal of DOTr and the Economic Development Cluster was approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force and National Task Force Against COVID-19.

DOTr initially announced the adjustment will start on September 14, but Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran retracted, saying they have to meet with DOH, EDC, and IATF to finalize the date of implementation.

From the one-meter distance recommended by the World Health Organization, DOTr will reduce the space between commuters inside public transportation to 0.75 meters. The distance will be reduced to 0.5 meters after two weeks, then down to 0.3 after another 14 days.

DOTr said that, with the mandatory use of face masks and face shields in public transport, the one-meter physical distancing measure being observed can eventually be adjusted to 0.3 meters.

It said the ridership in railways will dramatically increase with the reduced physical distancing. It added that "standing passengers" may be accommodated in modern PUVs and public utility buses. The adjustment in physical distancing rules also apply to airlines and passenger ferries.

All forms of public transportation have adjusted to the one-meter physical distancing guidelines before they resumed operations when the community quarantine status eased. Markers have been placed inside trains, while partitions and plastic covers have been added in jeepneys. Some buses even removed seats to ensure riders don't sit beside each other.

Former COVID-19 task force special adviser Dr. Tony Leachon is wary of the looming relaxation in physical distancing rules.

"This move will need calibrated planning. Pilot studies with monitoring of cases daily. It will need reference models from other countries using this practice. Results should be known," he told CNN Philippines.

The COVID-19 virus is mainly spread through droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. A person can also contract the virus when they touch a surface with the said droplets then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

DOTr said the EDC consulted with health experts before making the proposal, arguing that strict enforcement of health standards — including the no-talking rule inside trains — will ensure the safety of commuters.

CNN Philippines correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.