Riding in Jeepneys Should Be Fine; Just Wear a Mask and Maintain Social Distance

Wearing of face masks and observing social distancing inside open-air vehicles such as jeepneys would be enough to curb spread of COVID-19 while commuting, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said on June 23.

This comes after IBON Foundation called on authorities to allow public utility jeepnes or “jeeps” to resume operations, as foreign studies say riding in open-air vehicles do not increase chances of contracting COVID-19.

“The mode of transmission is droplet infection. With or without aircon [in a vehicle], basta naka-mask kayo lahat, you are distant to the person next to you at hindi kayo cramped, the possibility of getting infected is very low,” Vergeire explained in a virtual forum.

“With aircon or without aircon, if you do not wear your mask, mahahawa kayo kung meron man roon [na may COVID-19],” she added.

Despite this clarification, Vergeire did not recommend jeeps to ply the roads again as traditional open-air jeeps still have to be assessed so they can meet health standards.

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“Napakalaki rin kasi ng risk kapag sa jeepney. Ang kanilang upuan, facing each other, di katulad sa bus na hindi magkakaharap,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire mentioned a prototype from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), but also brought up the difficulties jeepney drivers may face as they try to comply to new health measures.

“May nakita akong prototype ng DOTr na may spacing in between [seats], barriers or engineering control. Ang problema ay kung makaka-comply ba ang jeepney drivers dahil hirap rin sila sa pera. Kailangan nilang maglabas ng pera para magawa ang mga iyon sa kanilang jeepney,” she added. 

Vergeire said that the DOTr should aid jeepney drivers as they try to comply with health standards to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease.

“DOH issued minimum public health standards, at ang magpapatupad nito ang kani-kanilang ahensiya. Ang magpapatupad nito sa jeepneys are DOTr. They should ensure that as we ease restrictions, the minimum health standards will be complied [with],” Vergeire said.

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Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that jeepneys would be allowed to ferry passengers again only if the buses, modern public utility vehicles, and trains currently available would not be enough to transport the large number of commuters.

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