Medical experts seek increase of public transport under strict health measures to revitalize economy

A group of health experts has recommended the increase of public transportation capacity in the country.  Such proposed increase would be governed by strict social distancing measures while providing livelihood to Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, led by former Health Secretary Dr. Manuel Dayrit and the University of the Philippines-Manila College of Public Health Dean Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., has submitted their recommendations to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

The medical experts urged the government to increase public transportation including the railway, bus, jeepney, and motorcycle taxis while easing the social distancing rules under strict health protocols. The group added that a consultation must be done with the private medical community including the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) as being part of the technical working group, before the IATF released the policy.

“While the efforts of the IATF, the Department of Health (DOH), and the One Hospital Command to address the COVID-19 pandemic have successfully increased and improved current hospital capacity, there is now an urgent need to revitalize our country,” the group said in a position paper.

“We need to emerge from the current recession that has severely impacted livelihoods. This will enable our countrymen to work again, so that they can feed their families and support their  communities. The economic enablement of Filipinos translates to their health and welfare,” they added.

The health experts said that they are advocating the strict implementation of the seven “commandments” for all public transportation: “wearing of proper face masks, wearing of face shields, no talking and no eating, adequate ventilation, frequent and proper disinfection, no symptomatic passengers and appropriate physical distancing.”

“We believe that the combination of these measures will be amongst the most comprehensive in the world, based on our consultation with international experts. By imposing these strict measures, we believe we can gradually relax social distancing rules, in order to double or even triple our current public transport capacity, without compromising public health,” the group said.

The group has also cited a recent study from the Duke University that showed surgical masks reduce droplet transmission by up to 99 percent and the simple act of not talking can reduce droplet counts by up to 4 times.

They also added that in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam and other countries, passengers wear face masks while sitting side-by-side in trains while COVID-19 cases remain manageable.