Gov't to hear medical experts on relaxed distance policy for public transport

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 03:32 PM

The MRT-3 resumes operations on a limited capacity on July 13, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA-- The government's COVID-19 pandemic response task force will hear the concerns of medical experts on the relaxed physical distancing policy for public transport, Malacañang said Monday as the new policy took effect.

The inter-agency task force (IATF) on pandemic response will consult medical professionals on the matter when it meets on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Some medical professionals have called out the reduction of the required physical distance between passengers to 0.75 meters from 1 meter, saying the move poses risks in light of the ongoing health crisis.

"Syempre po, hindi naman tayo magbibingi-bingihan sa opinyon ng ating mga medical frontliners so bubuksan po ulit ang usapin dito bukas po, sa susunod na meeting ng IATF," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

(Of course we cannot pretend to be deaf to the concerns of medical frontliners so we will reopen the discussion on this tomorrow--the scheduled meeting of the IATF.)

While President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to approve the distancing reduction, his spokesman said Cabinet officials already greenlighted the policy in response to the need of the country to reopen the economy.

"Alam niyo po yung pagbabawas ng space o espasyo between passengers eh inaprubahan po yan ng IATF dahil hindi natin mabubuksan yung ekonomiya kung hindi natin dadagdagan ang ating transportasyon," he said.

(The reduction in space between passengers was approved by the IATF since we cannot reopen the economy if we don't add more transportation.)

Some medical professionals such as former government pandemic response task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon, Philippine General Hospital clinical associate professor Dr. Edsel Salvaña, and San Lazaro Hospital adult infectious diseases department head Dr. Rontgene Solante have highlighted the risks that the new policy might pose especially in Metro Manila, the coronavirus epicenter of the country.

Department of Transportation Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. on Monday said the change in policy was prompted by requests from commuters to ease the stringent physical distancing policies as more industries were allowed to operate.

"Nagmula po yang request na yan sa ating mga mamaamayan dahil nga po nagbubukas na po yung ating ekonomiya, kailangan din po makapasok sa trabaho yung mga tao natin, ang mga mamamayan natin," Tuazon Jr. said in a virtual press briefing.

(That request came from the public because our economy is opening up so workers need to go to work.)