By Charissa Luci-Atienza
House committee on transportation chairperson and Samar 1st district Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento on Thursday (March 12) said he wants to require the commuting public to use face masks or any other article that can be used to cover one’s nose and mouth while riding on all forms public transportation.
He made the proposal amid the growing risk of contracting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“The threat of the COVID-19 virus is very real and should not be underestimated. Taking all the precautions will not just protect us from this dreaded disease but it will also protect others. If we don’t have face masks, we can use handkerchiefs and any clothing article that can adequately cover our nose and mouth,” Sarmiento said in a statement.
He said such a measure should be implemented in all forms of public transportation including jeepneys, buses, trains, airplanes, and water vessels.
“Since the Department of Health has already declared Code Red which means that COVID-19 is now locally transmitted and could spread exponentially, it becomes necessary to adopt all measures necessary to stop the spread of the disease,” he said.
The House leader called on the management of the Philippine National Railways and the Light Rail Transit System to regularly conduct sanitation of vehicles and coaches “to somehow reduce the chance of transmission.”
He said the commuting public should be continuously served by the government despite the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We should not stop transporting our people because doing so will only hurt the economy even further,” Sarmiento said.
He said the government should not allow the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV- 2) responsible for COVID-19 to paralyze the country’s public transport system.
He said the public can do their part by taking all the necessary precautionary measures to protect not only themselves but their fellow passengers as well by wearing face masks, or if not available, anything that can be used to cover the nose and the mouth.
Citing the health authorities, he said COVID-19 is not airborne but it can be transmitted through droplets or saliva.
“So it is important that commuters must cover their nose and mouth while inside public transportation,” Sarmiento said.