âToo soonâ: Doctors group opposes eased distancing in public vehicles
Commuters are seen inside an MRT-3 train on August 19, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
‘Too soon’: Doctors group opposes eased distancing in public vehicles
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - September 14, 2020 - 4:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of healthcare professionals opposed the Department of Transportation’s move to ease physical distancing controls in public transport, which is feared to trigger a surge in coronavirus disease cases.

Physical distancing in public vehicles was reduced to 0.75 meters from the original one meter gap beginning Monday in a bid to increase the passenger load of public transportation. The separation would then be adjusted to 0.5 meter by September 28 and to 0.3 meter by October 12.

“Tutol ang HPAAC (Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19) sa pag-relax ng social distancing measures in public utility vehicles,” Dr. Antonio Dans said Monday.

(HPAAC opposes the relaxation of social distancing measures in public utility vehicles.)

Members of HPAAC include medical societies that previously appealed for a “timeout” and called on the government to recalibrate its COVID-19 pandemic response, saying the country was “losing the battle” against the health crisis last month.

Dans, an epidemiologist, said it is still too early to relax physical distancing measures in public transport.  

“Sa tingin namin, pag titignan natin ang curve ng pandemic na ito, masyadong maaga pa at malamang na dumami lalo ang kaso at bumagal ang recovery natin kung gawin natin ito ngayon,” he said, adding the group is in talks with government agencies about the policy.

(It is still too early for it and the number of cases will surely increase and our recovery will slow down if we do this now.)

HPAAC said commuters should stick to one-meter distance whenever possible and travel only when needed.

“Ang payo namin: mas malayo, mas mabuti. Kung kaunti ang pasahero, ituloy niyo pa rin ang one-meter distancing or farther,” Dans said.

(Our recommendation is the farther, the better. If there are few passengers, continue doing one-meter distancing or farther.)

Dr. Tony Leachon, former COVID-19 Task Force adviser, called the measure “risky, confusing and counterintuitive.”

“Since physical distancing is the number one deterrent for viral spread, reducing the distance of physical distancing may actually jeopardize our efforts in trying to flatten the curve,” Leachon said in an interview on ANC Monday.

In a statement, the Department of Health asked the public to be “extra vigilant in situations where distancing cannot be practiced, and if possible, choose to participate in activities or use transport options that can afford at least one meter distancing.”

The country reported 261,216 COVID-19 cases, with 4,371 deaths and 207,568 recoveries as of Sunday.


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