Transport rules further eased: Riders allowed one seat apart
MANILA, Philippines — The government has approved a “one-seat-apart” rule on mass transport and allowed the expansion of the age bracket of people who can go out as part of efforts to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday that the recommendations by the government’s economic team were approved during a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Duterte on Monday night.
“The meeting focused on how to revive the economy despite the COVID-19 pandemic. [T]he Cabinet approved all the recommendations of the economic cluster,” Roque said.
First Cabinet meeting
It was the first time that the Cabinet met since the pandemic began in March.
The Cabinet approved the recommendations for the one-seat-apart rule on mass transport, and gradually increasing the capacity to allow “sitting together” but with plastic barriers, or ultraviolet light disinfection.
The government has been enforcing a 1-meter rule on mass transport since it allowed the return of public transport in June.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) had planned to reduce the distance to 0.75 m, but objections from some Cabinet officials and health experts rolled back the plan.
Roque said there was no more debate on the easing of the physical distancing rule on mass transport during Monday night’s Cabinet meeting.
“As far as the reducing of the 1-meter distance is concerned, it was arrived at as a matter of consensus and it is based on science,” Roque said.
He said the need to reopen the economy to remedy poverty, hunger and malnutrition forced opponents of the relaxation to change their minds.
Roque said the risk of coronavirus transmission was lessened by observing the minimum health standards.
The approved recommendations will come into effect once these are published in the Official Gazette, he said.
There is no need for a resolution by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases since the recommendations have been approved by the Cabinet, he added.
Implementation of the relaxed rules will be accompanied by strict enforcement of health measures—wearing of masks, face shields, no eating and no talking, no symptomatic passengers, adequate ventilation and frequent disinfection.
Roque said the DOTr would issue guidelines on the eased public transport rules.
He said the government also approved the gradual expansion of the age bracket of people who could go out, with the coronavirus task force determining the age group that would be allowed to leave their homes.
Business capacity expansion
Roque gave a sample age bracket of 15 to 60 years old, but said the task force would be given “leeway” in fixing the age group.
Currently, people below 20 years old and above 60 are not allowed to go out except to shop for essentials and go to work. Only people age 21 to 60 are allowed to leave their homes.
Roque said the Cabinet also approved recommendations to consider a “more incremental opening of businesses” by shortening curfew hours and arranging work shifts.
Also approved, he said, was the “further gradual expansion of business capacity to 75 to 100 percent” to allow more people to return to work and consumers to buy more goods.
Roque said the Cabinet agreed to identify “priority areas” to manage COVID-19 cases through prevention, detection, isolation and treatment of patients.
He said the coronavirus task force would maintain current quarantine levels and impose stricter levels only as a last resort.
On Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,990 additional coronavirus infections, pushing the overall number of COVID-19 cases to 344,713.
Of the new cases identified by 128 of 145 accredited laboratories, 580 were from Metro Manila, 114 from Cavite, 105 from Rizal, 100 from Laguna, and 94 from Misamis Oriental.
The DOH said 327 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 293,383. But the death toll rose to 6,372 with the deaths of 40 more patients.
That left the country with 44,958 active cases, 84.2 percent of which were mild, 10.6 percent asymptomatic, 1.7 percent severe, and 3.4 percent critical.
—With a report from Tina G. Santos
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