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Duterte to decide on fate of reduced physical distancing rule — Palace

President Rodrigo Duterte may decide on Thursday the fate of the controversial policy to gradually reduce the physical distance between passengers inside public transportation, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) came up with a recommendation to the President after six hours of “long discussions” on Tuesday.

“I think the President will decide no later than tomorrow," Roque said in an interview with CNN-Philippines. "Until the President revokes it, I think it will be implemented."

Roque said the IATF listened to the arguments of some medical experts, including former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit and Dr. Antonio Dans of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19.

Dayrit is part of the group of health experts who said that evidence showed physical distancing can be maintained below one meter as long as other health measures are also implemented such as wearing of face masks and face shields and no talking and no eating during the trip.

Dans is against the easing of physical distancing rules, saying this could trigger a spike in COVID-19 cases. Some Cabinet officials also gave contrasting opinions on the matter.

Under the new protocol released by the Department of Transportation last week, the current one-meter distance would be optimized to 0.75 meters beginning September 14. It could be further reduced to 0.5 meters after two weeks, and to 0.3 meters after another two weeks.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Tuesday defended the decision to reduce social distancing on public transport, saying it was a product of research and simulation by the Philippine National Railways.

He also said other countries have reduced the physical distance "from one meter and downwards." — RSJ, GMA News