More information is trickling in as Luzon prepares to move to a more relaxed General Community Quarantine. More of us can get back to work and get back on the road now but, of course, there will still be restrictions in place.
According to a press release by the Department of Transportation, there are new rules for traveling in private vehicles, and we're a bit confused given the new social distancing guidelines.
For starters, there can only be two on the front row of a vehicle; meaning the driver and one front passenger. That's not really an issue given that most modern private vehicles have only two seats in front; some vehicles like vans and AUVs had a middle seat though.
Here's where it gets a bit unusual: the DOTr stated that "front-facing seats shall not exceed two passengers per row".
That means every row of seating that is facing forward in a vehicle will have only two passengers. For hatchbacks, wagons, and sedans, that more or less equates to the middle seat in the back being unoccupied. Same goes for the back seat (or second row) of crossovers and SUVs.
But what about vehicles with three-row seating? Again, only two passengers will be allowed per row. For sedans, that translates to a maximum of four occupants while MPVs and SUVs with third-row seats are allowed up to six.
If you're raising your eyebrows, so are we. It seems impossible to practice physical distancing given that typical third-row seats are right beside each other.
Also, that means vans with multiple rows of forward-facing seats will have two passengers per row. A van with 4 rows of seats can have 8 passengers, vans with 5 rows of forward-facing seats can have a maximum of 10, so on and so forth.
Interestingly, the government made no clarification regarding private vehicles with peripheral seating or side-facing like seats like an L300 FB, the Isuzu Crosswind, Mitsubishi Adventure, Toyota Tamaraw FX or Revo, among others.
There are contradictions with an earlier broadcast saying the passenger limit for private vehicles was just three. That meant the driver must be alone in front and there's a maximum of two passengers at the back. Understandably, there will be those that will be confused at the two statements. However, the two-passengers per row comes straight from the DOTr statement but the three-passenger limit was broadcasted on PTV. Perhaps a statement within a few days (or even hours) will clear up the matter.
As a reminder, those that will be allowed to drive to work include medical and government front liners, electronic specialists, those in the export trade, manufacturing, e-commerce, delivery and courier services, repair services, maintenance, media personnel, and housing agents (except for buying and selling), banking and finance, BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing), and non-leisure trade and services.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also said that those allowed to go in and out of ECQ areas are health workers (doctors, nurses, etc), government officials and government frontline personnel, medical or aid volunteers, those headed to the airport for international flights, workers in permitted establishments, persons providing essential goods, services, and public utilities, Skeletal workforce personnel, repatriated OFWs and non-OFWs returning to their residences, and “persons transported through efforts of the national government upon the conduct of the necessary quarantine protocols and in concurrence with the receiving local government units”.