Jeepneys are still not allowed even if the government has relaxed quarantine measures nationwide. The restriction has forced drivers to rely on government dole-outs, some of them even going to the streets to beg to support their families.
Russel Palma
Jeepney drivers eyed as contact tracers
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 4, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Officials are discussing the possibility of tapping jeepney drivers as contact tracers while they are not yet allowed to resume operations because of quarantine restrictions, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said allowing jeepneys to ply the roads is “not in the immediate horizon” because it is “almost a physical impossibility” to observe social distancing when passengers face each other.

“(We are) actually considering alternative livelihood for them. There’s a suggestion that they be employed as contact tracers, because we do need about 120,000 of them and there’s only about 30,000 employed so far. That’s being discussed,” Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel.

He added that the government is also considering the complete reconfiguration of the jeepney to make it compliant with minimum health standards.

Jeepneys are still not allowed even if the government has relaxed quarantine measures nationwide. The restriction has forced drivers to rely on government dole-outs, some of them even going to the streets to beg to support their families.

The government is planning to spend P11.7 billion to hire 136,000 contact tracers for at least three months. Contact tracing seeks to identify the people who had close contact with persons infected with the coronavirus so they can be isolated.

Roque said the government is urging employers to adopt alternative working arrangements like work-from-home because of the limited mass transportation.

“Unfortunately, public transportation really will have to be reduced if there’s going to be social distancing... The only way to contain a disease now is observe social distancing and we will never get to the point that we can provide a hundred percent transportation to what we used to have in a workplace,” he also said.

“Although we have opened the economy and the workforce can come back a hundred percent, it does not mean that we should let them into the work premises a hundred percent because we simply don’t have the capacity yet to provide public transportation if all of our workers are to be compelled to work in sites,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe urged the government to hire traditional jeepneys compliant with safety protocols to augment the fleet of public utility vehicles (PUVs) that will shuttle thousands of commuters to work amid the general community quarantine (GCQ).

She said the jeepneys should bear markers and partitions and observe other health and safety measures to ensure social distancing and prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Poe noted that since the start of GCQ, only 90 buses have been plying EDSA as against 3,500 buses running pre-quarantine. With only 25 passengers per trip per unit, only about 20,000 passengers can be accommodated instead of the 250,000 before the lockdown. Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva, Romina Cabrera, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Emmanuel Tupas

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