Yes, that headline is correct.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is taking a new and bold step to help reduce the rate of transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
The new measure is simple: Shut up when riding public transport.
We asked DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran about the matter and she confirmed that the department is banning passengers from talking inside public transport. And by public transport, it was made clear to us that it refers to all forms. Presumably, that would include buses, jeepneys, TNVS, UV Express, modern PUVs, trains, MRT, LRT, ferries, ships, and even aircraft. All those forms of transportation do fall under the purview of the DOTr.
The DOTr has actually already adopted the new guideline of no talking by passengers riding public transport, but that's not all. The no-talking rule covers not only conversations between passengers, but also means passengers cannot make or take mobile phone calls whilst riding public transport.
The objective of such a measure is logical enough: verbal conversations are seen as a potential method for the transmission and propagation of the coronavirus. According to a WHO brief, “the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, can occur through direct, indirect, or close contact with infected people through infected secretions such as saliva and respiratory secretions or their respiratory droplets, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings.”
The “No Talking and No Answering Calls” rule seems extreme, but other countries have adopted such a measure already. In May, Singapore implemented a similar measure, and it has made a significant impact. For the last 30 days, Singapore's new daily cases haven't breached 100.
The "No Talking and No Answering Calls” rule came into effect on September 14 and is expected to back up the “No Face Mask, No Face Shield, No Entry” policy as a means to help control the spread.
The DOTr is already preparing to start a phased reduction of social distancing guidelines on public transportation from the mandated 1.0-meter minimum to 0.75 meters which began this Monday. The DOTr will then reduce that further to 0.5 meters by September 28, and to 0.3 meters by October 12.
There are, however, still many question marks regarding the matter. Does the new no-talking-in-public-transport only cover non-essential conversations? What are the fines for such a violation? On these, we asked Asec. Libiran, but she informed us that the DOTr will issue a press release on the new guidelines, so we'll just have to wait.
So if you're riding any form of public transport and get a call, just reject it and reply via SMS, FB Messenger, Viber, Whatsapp, or any other messaging platform you may have. And avoid talking to the ones around you.