DOTr urged: Let experts examine data on coronavirus distancing cut


Posted at Sep 16 2020 04:37 PM

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The transportation department should be "transparent" in the data that supposedly justify its easing of physical distancing rules meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the mass transport system, a member of an inter-disciplinary research group from the University of the Philippines said Wednesday. 

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said Tuesday his agency ran a simulation at the Philippine National Railways before lowering distancing requirements to 0.75 meter from 1 meter to accommodate more passengers in public vehicles. 

"We are not sure what the scientific evidence is for this policy change. We would invite the DOTr to publicize [this], to be transparent," said UP-OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco. 

"We’ve heard about models that suggest the number of cases would not significantly increase in the NCR. We have to examine that data," said the biology professor. 
The World Health Organization urges the public to keep a distance of 1 meter from others to dodge the virus. When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks they spray small droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus, the WHO said. 

The government plans to further ease the physical distancing threshold to 0.5 meter on Sept. 28, and then down to 0.3 meter by Oct. 12. 

The move is "not a product of a knee-jerk reaction, but also a product of research and a product of simulation," Tugade told told lawmakers on Tuesday. 

"We can show that the matter of health and safety is not prejudiced provided you do strict enforcement and recognition of face mask, face shield, washing of hands, no more unnecessary talking, no eating, no use of cellphones, no asymptomatic, no senior citizens," he said. 

Several doctors and researchers earlier urged the government to increase public vehicles instead of relaxing distancing rules. 

The health department has confirmed 269,407 coronavirus infections, 57,392 of which were active, as of Tuesday, 6 months since the government imposed one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world. 

The Philippines has the 21st biggest caseload worldwide, according to a dashboard by the Johns Hopkins University. 

ANC, Sept. 16, 2020