Last week, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) announced that they will be easing the physical distancing between commuters so public utility vehicles would be able to accommodate more passengers. This was upon the proposal of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), and was consulted with the National Task Force Against COVID-19–it took effect today, September 14.
The distance between passengers on public transportation has been decreased from 1 meter to 0.75 meter and will further be reduced to 0.5 meter after two weeks, and to 0.3 meter by October 12.
Health care professionals and medical experts are against the new guideline as the one-meter distance prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) is ideal to help curb the spread of the virus. (Read: Taguig City Deploys ‘Robonurses’ to Protect Health Workers)
“Naniniwala kami na dapat ang mininum pa rin natin ay 1-meter social distancing para po sigurado dahil nanggaling na rin po ito sa mga eksperto,” said Jed Ugay, spokesperson of the Move as One Coalition.
In addition, Dr. Mario Panaligan, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, said that they are “worried and concerned” that the easing of physical distancing will contribute to the further increase of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“There is really a chance for the number to increase further. Just remember that’s still high up to now. We have not yet really controlled the virus. That number can further increase by of course decreasing the distance,” Dr. Panaligan said in an interview.
Even former National Task Force Against COVID-19 adviser Dr. Tony Leachon says he is wary of the effects of this new distancing guideline. He says that instead of easing the physical distancing between commuters, the government should provide more transportation for the commuting public to maintain the meter-long distance between individuals.
“There will be no reopening of the economy unless you reduce the virus transmission. That is a basic tenet in epidemiology. We always welcome the opening of the economy, but not at the expense of health standards,” Dr. Leachon adds.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says they are aware of what healthcare professionals are saying and that they will be discussing it again tomorrow, September 15.
“Hindi naman tayo magbi-bingihan sa mga opinyon ng ating mga medical frontliners so bubuksan po uli ang usapin tungkol dito,” Roque said in a televised briefing. “Pakikinggan po natin sila bukas,” the spokesperson said.
As of writing, the Philippines has over 261,000 confirmed cases, more than 208,000 recoveries, and 4,371 fatalities.