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Philippine govt has approved ‘one-seat-apart’ rule in public transport

In this March 17, 2020 photo, some public utility vehicles still ferry some stranded commuters along EDSA in Cubao, Quezon City following the suspension of all public transport in line with the strict implementation of the enhanced community quarantine. The STAR/Miguel de Guzman. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Oct 13, 2020, The Manila Times. President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet has approved a one-seat-apart policy in public transportation, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, The Manila Times reported.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the economic team’s recommendations to revive the pandemic-hit economy were approved during the Cabinet meeting on Monday night.

“Inaprubahan po ng gabinete, na sa pampublikong transportasyon, one-seat-apart na po ang distansya (The Cabinet approved that in public transportation, one-seat-apart is the distance),” Roque said during a virtual press briefing.

“Magsimula sa pagkakaroon ng one seat apart at paunti unting pataasin ang seating capacity o payagan na makaupo na magkatabi basta may plastic barrier (From one-seat-apart, the seating capacity will be gradually increased, allowing passengers to sit next to each other as long there is a plastic barrier),” he added.

The Cabinet also allowed increased train capacity to 50 percent, from the current 30 percent, according to Roque.

He said more provincial buses, shuttles, ride-hailing services, and motorcycle taxis would also be allowed to accommodate more passengers.

Minimum health standards such as wearing of face masks, face shields, no talking or eating, adequate ventilation, frequent and proper disinfection, and no symptomatic passengers must be observed, he added.

Duterte had decided to keep the 1-meter physical distancing requirement in public transportation after some medical experts and government officials opposed it for fear that it could lead to a spike in coronavirus infections.

All forms of public transportation have adjusted to the one-meter physical distancing guidelines before they resumed operations when the community quarantine status eased.

Markers have been placed inside trains, while partitions and plastic covers have been added in jeepneys. Some buses even removed seats to ensure riders don’t sit beside each other.

As of Monday, the Philippines recorded 342,816 cases with 6,332 deaths and 293,152 recoveries.

While scientific studies recently showed the flattening of the curve, the government has appealed to the public to continue to observe health protocols, such as wearing masks, frequent washing of hands and observing safe distancing from others, to avoid infection.

The public has been advised to stay vigilant and not be complacent to further slow down the spread of the virus.

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