DOTr still backing face mask mandates on public transportation

DOTr still backing face mask mandates on public transportation
Passengers start arriving early while others spend the night to avoid the influx of commuters inside the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) in Parañaque City on Friday morning. The terminal administration is expecting an increase in volume of passengers over the weekend heading to their respective provinces to vote for the May 9 national and local elections.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the government's pandemic task force looking at making mask mandates voluntary outdoors, the Department of Transportation called on the public to continue wearing face masks inside public transportation vehicles.

"The Secretary favors maintaining the face mask protocol in all public transport because prevailing infection numbers show the virus has not been fully controlled and we should not let our guard down," the Department of Transportation said in a statement sent to reporters.

Although the COVID-19 surge in Metro Manila had begun slowing down, increased mobility in the wake of the return to face-to-face classes for students led to the reproduction number and positivity rate slightly increasing over the past week, independent pandemic monitor OCTA Research said. 

"It should not be a big concern if mobility will cause an uptick in cases as long as healthcare utilization remains low, and we expect it to remain low," OCTA Research fellow Guido David said in a tweet advisory. 

At a press briefing earlier last week, Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that public transportation might be left out of the task force's move towards voluntary face mask wearing outdoors. 

"When we talk about public transportation, we talk about a crowded place, so it's about a crowded setting. So, when we see that, we shouldn't include it, nevertheless, because when we look at it, it also looks like it's indoors, especially LRT, MRT...So maybe, that will be exempted from that voluntary nature, because we expect that transport areas or those that we ride in public are always crowded," she said in mixed Filipino and English.

Vergeire also noted at the time that the COVID-19 infections in the Philippines are still manageable with severe and critical cases plateauing, while the proportion of people seeking treatment in hospitals was less than 30%.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista was also quoted as saying that the public should still follow the "seven commandments" coined by the last DOTr administration, which include: 

  1. Wearing masks;
  2. Avoiding phone calls;
  3. Not eating;
  4. Keeping public utility vehicles well ventilated;
  5. Conducting frequent disinfection;
  6. Prohibiting passengers with COVID-19 symptoms inside public transportation;
  7. Observing appropriate physical distancing.

Franco Luna 



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