MANILA — The Philippines' main railway lines are ramping up COVID-19 preventive measures as the country records an uptick of new cases, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Tuesday.
The mandatory face mask rule for all passengers at the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Metro Rail Transit (MRT), and Philippine National Railways (PNR) is still in effect.
DOTr Assistant Secretary for Railways Jorjette Aquino also ordered mandatory COVID-19 testing for all rail officials, employees, and personnel who show symptoms of the coronavirus.
"The directives were issued after the Department of Health (DOH) recorded a 42% increase in average daily new COVID-19 cases—or 637 new infections per day—during the final week of April 2023," the DOTr said.
“The Department of Transportation would like to remind all rail operators to remain vigilant and ramp up preventive measures against COVID-19, as the number of cases is still on the rise,” Aquino said.
“As such, we direct all rail operators to strictly enforce the wearing of face masks in all trains and stations. Furthermore, we require all officials, employees, and personnel in the railways sector to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing should anyone suffer from symptoms of the virus,” she added.
She also reminded the riding public to refrain from talking while inside trains to "prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Aquino also assured that disinfection activities would still be carried out in all trains and stations.
“We urge all rail operators to undertake these measures with the health and safety of each commuter on top of mind. Let us work together to ensure the safety of everyone during these challenging times,” Asec. Aquino said.
The increase in COVID-19 cases comes amid the possible spread of omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, known as "Arcturus," in the country.
XBB.1.16 is a descendent lineage of XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages.
The new COVID-19 variant has the ability to evade immunity and is believed to be more transmissible, the Department of Health said.