There's face mask and shield: DOTr justifies relaxed transport distancing policy

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 12:45 PM

There's face mask and shield: DOTr justifies relaxed transport distancing policy 1
Commuters wear face shields as they take the MRT-3 on August 19, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA-- The government gave in to supposed public clamor to ease physical distancing measures in public transport, an official said Monday after medical experts expressed concerns over the move.

Department of Transportation Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. said the agency received 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.)

The Philippines on Monday started enforcing the physical distancing policy of 0.75 meters from 1 meter, but mandating additional health protocols such as the use of face masks and face shields.

The policy comes even as the World Health Organization urged the public to keep a distance of 1 meter from others to dodge the virus.

Regulators eased distancing rules because Metro Manila and nearby areas are gearing for "the 'new normal’ where more workers are expected to return to their re-opened work places and more businesses are expected to resume operations,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said last week. 

"Hindi lang natin basta nirereduce 'yung ating physical distancing. Marami po tayong in-implement na protocol diyan, andiyan na po yung mandatory use of face mask, face shield..." Tuazon Jr. added.

(We didn't just reduce physical distancing measures. We implemented additional protocols like the mandatory use of face masks, and face shields.)

Some medical experts 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 all expressed concerns over the risks that the new policy might pose.