(The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2021 - 12:00am

There’s a “bubble” to contain the rapid spread of more infectious COVID strains. So what do unscrupulous persons do? They find ways to puncture the bubble, even if it means putting people at risk of infection.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade describes the operations as “COVID smuggling.” This week he unleashed a stream of expletives against those behind the operations, for endangering public health.

The smuggling involves trucking firms and colorum vehicles, which transport passengers into and out of the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. During the Holy Week alone, the Department of Transportation apprehended 12 colorum vehicles that transported passengers from the NCR Plus to the Bicol Region. The DOTr noted that from March 19 to April 2 alone, 79 people who used this clandestine mode of transportation to go to Bicol from the NCR tested positive for COVID. Bicol could soon see its own COVID surge and become the next region to be placed under enhanced community quarantine or ECQ.

Video footage showed a closed truck, with license plate CTJ 694, that was opened by a truck helper. Inside were people, some not wearing masks or face shields, huddled together. They jumped out and proceeded toward waiting vans that would take them to their destinations in Metro Manila. The DOTr said the truck came from the Quezon-Bicol area. Rides are booked online, according to the DOTr, and passengers are picked up “door-to-door.”

The DOTr has emphasized that despite the NCR Plus bubble, there are people who are authorized to leave their homes and enter or leave the bubble for their livelihoods, using buses and other modes of authorized transportation. Those who use these legitimate routes, however, must comply with COVID health protocols, including getting tested before entering places outside the NCR Plus.

In this crisis, we all understand the need for people to continue making a living. This, however, cannot be done by endangering the health of others. The NCR Plus is a hot zone of a killer disease. The economy is taking a grave hit with the region reverted to ECQ in an effort to curb the COVID surge. This sacrifice must not be sabotaged and wasted by the irresponsibility of a few people.

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