1-meter rule ‘not gospel truth’: Experts back PUV distancing cut

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2020 10:12 AM | Updated as of Sep 17 2020 10:27 AM

Group proposes ‘7 commandments’ for mass transport

Commuters take the Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Manila on September 14, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A group of medical experts on Thursday backed the easing of physical distancing rules in public vehicles and proposed “7 commandments” to keep passengers safe from the pandemic.

Former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit, a member of the group, noted that subway passengers in Japan maintain physical distancing in the platforms, but are allowed to sit close to each other inside the trains, while they are wearing masks and refrain from talking.

Public vehicles in the Philippines will “not [be] as congested” as Japan’s subway, even after the distancing requirement is lowered to 0.75 meter or if it further went down to 0.5 and 0.3 meter, he said.

“What we’re saying here, me as a medical person, is that it is possible to go below one meter. It is not dogma, but we have to look at all the packages in the 7 commandments for its proper implementation,” Dayrit told ANC.

“These norms are not dogma, gospel truth. Even the WHO says that these norms have to be applied according to the context,” he added.

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The “7 commandments” for the mass transport system that Dayrit’s group recommended include the following:

Use anti-virus masks. Those who wear this are 6 times less likely to get infection compared to those who don’t, said Dayrit.

Wear face shield. This will reduce the risk of infection by as much as 3 times, he said.

No talking and no eating. Respiratory droplets from the mouth and nose can spread the virus, said the former health chief.

Ensure adequate ventilation. Open the windows of vehicles every now and then to dissipate the still air, where the virus might linger. For trains, stopping at platforms and opening the door will promote airflow, he said.

Practice frequent disinfection. Transport authorities should ensure that public vehicles are cleaned with bleach, which kills the virus, he said.

No symptomatic passengers. People who feel unwell should refrain from using public transport, said Dayrit.

Observe appropriate physical distancing.

“This is not just the 1-meter social distancing which is at issue here. We have to implement the total package,” said Dayrit. “And if we do, we will have great potential to reduce physical distancing and follow your policy of wanting to open up the economy.”
 
President Rodrigo Duterte will decide on the physical distancing policy after members of the government's pandemic response task force failed to reach a consensus, his spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday.

The Philippines has confirmed 272,934 coronavirus infections, 60,344 of which were active as of Wednesday.

Dayrit's group includes the following:

  • UP Manila College of Public Health Dean Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr. Former Undersecretary and government adviser Dr. Teodoro Herbosa
  • UP Manila Environmental and Occupational HealthDepartment Chair Dr. Michael Hernandez
  • Philippine College of Surgeons Cancer Commission Director Dr. Manuel Francisco T. Roxas
  • Former Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral
  • Founder and CEO of Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, Dr. Ma. Dominga Padilla
  • Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante