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Congested public transport prevents commuters from practicing social distancing

Commuters in the Philippines are at a loss as to how to observe social distancing to protect themselves from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) due to the country’s congested public transportation system.

Both the World Health Organization and the Department of Health have urged the public to distance themselves from other people, especially those who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, by at least one meter as a precautionary measure.

Health officials have already confirmed that there are cases of local COVID-19 transmission in the country.

Data from the Department of Transportation show that the daily average ridership for the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) was at 268,537 passengers in 2019, with the highest ridership averaging 333,787 passengers.

“Nakakatakot, pero kami, sa part ng commuter, wala ring magagawa,” commuter Michael Deslade said in a Stand for Truth report by Eduard Faraon on Tuesday.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) recently released a memorandum detailing precautionary measures against COVID-19 that must be undertaken by operators of public utility vehicles.

The measures included the wearing of masks by drivers and conductors.

“Iba’t iba po ‘yung mga measures na in-adopt as early as January,” Transportation Undersecretary Reinier Paul Yebra said. “Sa rail sector po, meron kaming… regular na pagdi-disinfect ng mga facilities, tapos installation ng mga alcohol.”

Despite the precautionary measures put in place, commuters remain hard-pressed to protect themselves from the coronavirus as they are forced to squeeze into congested trains or jeepneys to reach their destination.

“Siyempre the reality is maraming tao, congested. Pinag-aaralan pa namin kung paano gagawin ‘yun, ‘yung may one-meter distance,” Yebra said. — Julia Mari Ornedo/BAP, GMA News