MRT-3 depot worker dies, 41 others test positive for COVID-19

Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2021 10:35 PM | Updated as of Jan 27 2021 11:04 PM

The MRT-3 depot in Quezon City. Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The MRT-3 depot in Quezon City was placed under “enhanced access control” Wednesday after 42 employees tested positive for COVID-19 and one of them died.

All those who tested positive are in quarantine, officials said. 

The enclosed depot, located underneath a mall, is limiting access to employees for almost a week.

"We can consider it as parang part of the quarantine measures kasi since confined to the MRT-3 (office) personnel. Buti na lang na even before this cases, we already shifted to work from home arrangement,” Usec for Railways TJ Batan said in an online interview.

The depot houses the Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on the first floor and the office personnel on the second floor.

The initial reported case was among the MRT-3 depot office personnel who had a face-to-face meeting with the other staff. Early last week, all office personnel undertook an mass RT-PCR swab test.

“Meron kaming initial case na siyempre naka-experience ng symptoms, because of the symptoms nagpa-test. After nagpa-test naconfirm na positive. So we did contact tracing, yung naka-meeting at kasama sa immediate office, we had them tested. It really started with one confirmed case… We have this protocol dapat naka-mask all the time. May cases na while eating na tanggalin yung mask. It’s possible na nagkaroon ng transmission.” Batan said.

As of January 27, 3 additional COVID-19 positive cases were reported, leading to a total of 36 cases among DOTr-MRT3 office personnel at the MRT-3 Depot and 6 from the MRT3’s maintenance service provider. All 42 tested positive in a matter of almost two weeks. One of them passed away last week.

The Department of Transportation said contact tracing was conducted immediately and all MRT-3 depot office personnel shifted to a work-from-home arrangement. 

“Limited personnel lang ang nakakapag-report sa depot ngayon. You cannot go back to the depot unless meron kang negative RT-PCR test,” Batan added.

Batan added that they have coordinated with an IATF representative to help them identify if the coronavirus that infected the railways depot staff is the new UK variant.

Despite the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Department of Transportation said operations of the railway will continue. The agency assured that all stations' personnel, or those in direct contact with the passengers, tested negative.

“We are regular operations. Kasi after we did contact tracing, after we checked the tests, mukhang talagang sa depot office lang yung COVID-19 cases. For our station personnel, yung nakakahalubilo ng pasahero, we have no reported cases yet,” Batan said.

However, Batan says they will reconsider the decision if any of the employees in direct contact with passengers will get infected.

In August 2020, the management said they improved the ventilation of the depot after around 300 employees tested positive for coronavirus, 20 of whom were station tellers. 

The surge in infected number prompted the railways to operate in a reduced capacity for weeks and halt operations for six days last July.

Batan told MRT-3 passengers that it is still safe to ride the metro railway as it is continuing to implement measures such as enforcement of limited capacity in trains; wearing of full personal protective equipment by station personnel; health screening of entering passengers and station personnel; regular disinfection of trains and facilities; placement of disinfection stations; and deployment of transport marshals to ensure observance of health and safety measures.

“Ipianapatupad natin ang health and safety protocols sa MRT-3. Nandiyan iyung limited capacity kung mapapansin niyo po hindi pa rin napupuno ang among and health screening and regular disinfection ng tren,” Batan said.

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