Public transport in Luzon has been suspended with the declaration of a State of Calamity and implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine since March 17. This measure was done to further discourage non-essential travel in order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, many frontline health workers and other hospital staff were also prevented from going to work with the measure.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has since deployed transport services such as free bus services in cooperation with private companies to help shuttle these essential frontline workers to work safely. From the initial 3 routes started on March 18, the transport department says they have now extended the service to a total of 18 routes.
The Free Bus Service program is not just for doctors and nurses. Hospital workers such as administrative personnel, utility workers, security officers, and pharmacists will also be ferried by the buses as long as they present proper identification. This initiative is in line with the instruction of DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade to ensure the safe and efficient transportation of frontline health workers.
The two (2) new routes added to the free bus ride program will ply the North East area and the South West Area. Buses are deployed daily to pick-up and drop off health workers at their designated hospitals at 5:00 AM, 7:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, respectively.
For the North East Area (Route 17), buses will start at SM City San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan. They will then pass through, North Caloocan Doctors Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial (Caloocan), Bagong Silang Market, National Center for Mental Health (Camarin), Caloocan City North Medical Center, Almar Market, Novaliches Market/Queensberry Hospital, Bernardino General Hospital II, and SM Fairview/Commonwealth Hospital & MC*.
Buses traveling along the South West Area (Route 18) will start at Robinsons Place General Trias/Divine Grace Medical Center, San Pedro Calungsod Medical Center (Kawit)*, Binakayan Hospital and Medical Center, St. Dominic Medical Center (Bacoor), PITX*, and Baclaran Market*.
Areas marked with * are pick-up/transfer points to other bus routes going around Metro Manila.
From March 18-25 2020, the program has already deployed 106 buses and was able to cater to 1,402 health workers. The program complies strictly with containment protocols set by the Department of Health (DOH) such as the observance of physical distancing, body temperature checks, and the regular disinfection of vehicles.
Hopefully, the free bus rides help solve the travel woes of our frontline healthcare workers getting to and from their destinations.