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UP experts oppose reduced physical distancing in public transport

Experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) on Monday advised the government to reconsider the reduction in the physical distancing standard in public transport amid the COVID-19 threat.

Interviewed on Dobol B sa News TV, UP-OCTA Research Team Professor Ranjit Rye and Dr. Guido David discouraged the change in protocol.

“Tutol po kami dito sa decision o plano ng Department of Transportation (DOTr). Naniniwala po kami na dadami po ang transmission natin ng COVID-19 kung gagawin natin ito,” Rye said.

The DOTr on Monday implemented reduced physical distancing inside public mass transport.

It could be further reduced to 0.5 meters after two weeks and to 0.3 meters after another two weeks. According to the DOTr, this was to increase ridership in public transportation.

“Hindi ho kami kinonsulta rito. Meron naman talaga dapat mga eksperto na konsultahin  tungkol sa mga ganito , mga scientist, mga health expert natin sa Department of Health,” Rye said.

Rye underscored that social distancing, as well as the wearing of face masks and face shields, are the primary tools to avoid the transmission of COVID-19.

“Ngayon nagluluwag tayo (sa quarantine status) tapos tatanggalin pa natin ‘yung sandata natin laban sa COVID, lalong kakalat to, maraming mahahawaan , at lalong maraming magkakasakit,” he said.

“At dahil malubha itong sakit na ito, maaari marami pang mamamatay,” he added.

David said the decision should be science-based and thoroughly studied.

He also pointed out that the one-meter minimum distance standard to avoid virus transmission was recommended by the World Health Organization based on evidence.

“Wala naman tayong nakitang basis for a shorter distance na physical distancing,” David said.

“Kung .75 meter , mamaya baka gawin na rin nating 0.5 meter. I mean kung arbitrary lang naman din ‘yung distancing, hindi na siya science-based,” he added.

Rye suggested increasing the number of allowed public transport modes, instead of reducing the physical distancing standard.

On Sunday, a transport alliance leader suggested that, before reducing the physical distancing standards, all public transportation modes should first be allowed to operate to accommodate all commuters.

Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations President Efren de Luna pointed out that more commuters will be accommodated if all public transport vehicles are allowed to ply their routes.

On Monday, DOTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon said the reduced physical distancing in public transport amid the COVID-19 pandemic was based on studies made by experts in the railways and medical fields.

“Pinagbasehan po namin dito 'yung pag-aaral ng ibang eksperto, katulad po sa train 'yung International Union of Railways, na nakikita na hindi naman ganun kailangan talagang kalaki ang distansya,” Tuazon said.

Citing medical experts, Tuazon pointed out that the transmission rate can still be reduced to 94-95% with the observance of health protocols such as wearing of face mask and face shield, as well as regular disinfection.

“Actually po kung titignan niyo 'yung mga datos ngayon, ang Pilipinas na lang ang nagpapatupad ng one-meter distancing sa mga railways natin,” he said. — DVM, GMA News