Nearly a week after the IATF approved the increase in public transportation ridership, it seems the easing of physical distancing in public transportation will not push through.
Presidential Spokesperson Sec. Harry Roque announced recently that the 1-meter physical distancing between passengers riding public transportation vehicles will remain. This comes after members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) met to discuss matters regarding the easing of physical distancing. In the end, Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said that the 0.75-meter physical distancing has been temporarily suspended.
“Balik 1 meter muna tayo sa physical distancing sa pampublikong transportasyon habang wala pang desisyon ang Presidente kung ito nga po ay pwedeng maibaba sa 0.75.” said Roque.
[Let's go back 1 meter to physical distancing in public transportation while the President has not yet decided whether it can be lowered to 0.75]
The planned 0.75-meter reduction in physical distancing is actually part of the DOTr's plan to increase ridership amid the pandemic. The government agency explained that with the strict health protocols in place (the wearing of face masks and face shields in public transport), they can now optimize ridership in each public transportation vehicle. The DOTr added that they could further optimize ridership by reducing physical distancing to 0.5 meters after two weeks, and to 0.3 meters after another two weeks.
Health experts, however, disagreed with the DOTr's plan as confirmed cases in the country continue to rise. Furthermore, reducing the physical distance between passengers could result in the virus spreading more. They urged the government to reconsider the decision as it might result in the country's healthcare system being completely overwhelmed.
With the easing of physical distancing suspended, all commuters riding in public transportation will have to adhere to the 1-meter physical distancing protocol. In addition, public transportation services can only ferry 50% of the maximum passenger capacity.