As several parts of the country are preparing to adjust to General Community Quarantine (GCQ), the government, as well as the private sector, is looking to adjust to what many call as the 'New Normal'. With social distancing measures, as well as the requirement to wear protective face masks set to become the norm in the coming months (or years), lawmakers are already preparing to make such measures into law.
Recently, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, along with seven other House leaders, filed House Bill No. 6623, or the 'New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act'. The new House Bill aims to ensure that the health and safety of the public as the country slowly resume economic and social activities while also managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
But what could this mean for the public transportation sector? What rules and regulations must operators, as well as the riding public, follow under the 'New Normal' if it is passed into a Republic Act?
For starters, all concerned parties must follow the Universal and Mandatory Safety Measures. This means that commuters, and those working in public transportation, must always wear face masks to protect themselves. Any individual that fails to wear a face mask while in public places will be fined PhP 1,000 or render 1-day mandatory community service.
Social distancing measures (1 or 2 meters apart from one another) must be implemented in public areas, while hand washing/ sanitizing stations must be available in public places frequented by commuters. In addition, there should also be constant temperature checks in all enclosed/semi-enclosed areas if possible.
Before entering any PUVs, all passengers will be required to wash their hands or sanitize them. They will then have to seat one passenger seat apart from the rest to follow social distancing measures. Contact-less payment schemes (and other forms of cashless transactions) will also be implemented in order to minimize the risk of transmitting the disease.
Airports, seaports, and other forms of transport hubs are also required to follow the Universal and Mandatory Safety Measures. Moreover, the following places must also have the following measures in place: public health corridors, taking of body temperature for all departing and arriving passengers, mandatory quarantine (home or in an authorized government facility) of all arriving passengers, thorough sanitizing and disinfection of all arriving and departing vessels, regular testing of all employees, staff, and crew attached to vessels if possible, and rapid testing of all passengers should it be viable.
The government is mandated to monitor the implementation of the Universal and Mandatory Safety Measures in public transportation hubs, particularly in queuing and ticketing areas and inside the vehicles as well.
Perhaps most importantly, the 'New Normal" will mean public transportation (buses, trains, jeeps) can never be filled up to capacity if physical distancing is to be observed. That means longer commute or wait times. We have doubts about how this could be effectively enforced.
With the Enhanced Community Quarantine set to be lifted this coming May 15, 2020, we can only hope that the government, the public transportation sector, as well as the riding public will be able to follow these guidelines once it is made into law.