Social Distancing in Public Transport Will Soon Be Reduced to Half an Arm's Length

Bring your rulers!

MRT North Avenue Station on June 1
PHOTO BY Jerome Ascano

(SPOT.ph) With physical distancing and limited capacity implemented in trains, buses, and jeepneys, the public transportation system in Metro Manila is worse than ever for the commuter. The Department of Transportation announced on Friday, September 11, that the one-meter distance may be reduced gradually to accommodate more passengers. This proposal by the transportation agency and Economic Development Cluster was approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force and National Task Force Against COVID-19.

The World Health Organization recommends a distance of at least one meter between people in a public space. This helps limit the spread of COVID-19, which is found to be transmitted through close contact with infected patients via mouth and nose secretions (e.g. talking, sneezing, coughing, etc.). The Department of Transportation (DOTr) hopes to adjust this measurement by reducing to 0.75 meters, then further to 0.5 meters after two weeks, then down to 0.3 meters after another two weeks. For reference, 0.3 meters or 30 centimeters is less than an arm's length.

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In an announcement by the DOTr on Facebook on September 11, 7 a.m., the implementation of this new system is set to start on September 14. This was later retracted by DOTr assistant secretary Goddes Libiran, who said that they still have to meet with Department of Health, Energy Development Corporation, and Inter-Agency Task Force about the final implementation date, according to a report by CNN Philippines.

"There is a need to safely optimize the carrying capacity of the various public transport modes as Metro Manila and its adjacent areas continue with the transition towards the 'new normal' where more workers are expected to return to their re-opened work places and more businesses are expected to resume operations that were stopped during the enforcement of strict quarantine measures," DOTr secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement.

The Philippines now has a total of 252,964 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Department of Health. UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team predicts that the total number of cumulative cases may reach 585,216 by December 31.

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