Some buses and jeepneys were still observing the one-meter physical distancing between passengers on Monday despite a new government guideline reducing it.
This is because drivers and conductors do not know how to measure the 0.75 meter new physical distancing guideline, according to a report by Darlene Cay on GMA News' Unang Balita.
On Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City early Monday morning, all buses and jeepneys still followed the one-meter distancing between their passengers, which meant about one seat apart.
"'Yun ang problema ngayon, ma'm, paano namin ma-implement 'yon," bus conductor Isagani Villarao said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved the proposal to increase ridership in mass transport vehicles by reducing the physical distance among commuters, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
Starting Monday, September 14, physical distancing between passengers in public transportation vehicles has been reduced from one meter to 0.75 meter. Tugade said this would be further reduced to 0.5 meter after two weeks, then 0.3 meter after another two weeks.
Bus and jeepney drivers and a bus conductor interviewed by Cay welcomed the reduced distancing as this would mean more passengers would be allowed to board their vehicles.
"Mas maganda 'yon, ma'm. Makakatulong po kahit konti lang kinikita namin dahil nahirapan kami sa pasada ngayon e," jeepney driver Ricardo Huvilla said.
However, there were also fears about the further spread of COVID-19.
"Iniingatan nga natin ang social distancing para hindi tayo lalong lumala. Papabalik-balik lang tayo kung lalala, tapos lockdown na naman. Lalo tayong mahihirapan. Pero kung 'yan talaga ang ipatutupad ng gobyerno, kami ay susunod na lang din," bus driver Norberto Mendigo said.
Some bus passengers meanwhile, expressed fears of being exposed to the risk of COVID-19 with the reduced physical distancing in public transportation.
Meanwhile, at the Light Rail Transit-Line 1 (LRT1) Balintawak Station, some passengers welcomed the reduced physical distancing, while there were some who were not in favor, according to a report by Corinne Catibayan on Unang Balita.
"Para sa aking commuter, medyo OK 'yon kasi mas mabilis ang usad ng pila. Kung naka-protective ano ka naman, siguro OK lang," said one male passengers.
"Feeling ko kailangan i-retain 'yung dati kasi para mas safe. Kasi hindi pa naman nag-iimprove ang cases ng COVID," a female commuter said.
With the reduced physical distancing guideline, each LRT1 train may now accommodate 204 commuters at 0.75 meter distancing. This will be further increased to 255 at 0.5 meter distancing, then 300 at 0.3 meter distancing. With the one-meter distancing, only 155 passengers are allowed per train.
Meanwhile, at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3), more passengers were seen entering the North Avenue Station as the passenger capacity of a train was increased to 204 starting Monday, according to a report by Susan Enriquez on Unang Balita.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday urged the public to be “extra vigilant” against COVID-19 ahead of the reduction of physical distancing in public transportation vehicles.
“Given the recent decision of the Department of Transportation to ‘optimize physical distancing in transportation’... we enjoin all Filipinos to be extra vigilant in situations where distancing cannot be practiced, and if possible, choose to participate in activities or use transport options that can afford at least [one meter] distancing,” it said in a statement.
On Sunday, the DOH said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country reached 261,216.
Of this number, 207,568 recovered while 4,371 died. —KG, GMA News