Gov’t eyes resumption of public transportation, provision of hotel rooms for health workers

Published April 23, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


By Genalyn Kabiling

The government is now looking into the possible resumption of public transportation, and the provision of hotel rooms for health workers, as part of its evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaks during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Friday. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has directed transport and health authorities to study protocols on the possible reopening of the air, land and sea modes of travel, according to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.

Any resumption of the public transportation system however must still be subject to existing health guidelines and protocols on physical distancing, isolation and quarantine, Roque said.

“Inatasan ang DOTr (Department of Transportation) kasama ang DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), DOT (Department of Tourism), DOH (Department of Health), Bureau of Quarantine na pag-aralan na po at magrekomenda ng mga protocol sa posibleng pagbukas ng ating transportasyon be it air, sea and land travel as modes of transportation,” he said during a Palace press briefing Wednesday.

Public transportation has been suspended since the government implemented an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon last March 17. The Luzon-wide quarantine is set to expire at the end the month unless it is lifted or modified by President Duterte.

Recently, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade disclosed the proposed partial operation of buses and railway systems during the national health emergency.

Tugade said if the IATF gives its green light, buses and trains such as LRT-1, LRT-2, MRT 3 and the Philippine National Railway, may ferry 30 percent of full capacity subject to health and safety precautions.

Hotel rooms for frontliners

The government, meanwhile, is considering the provision of hotel rooms for the lodging of the country’s health frontliners involved in the detection and treatment of the coronavirus disease.

Roque said the Department of Tourism (DOT) has been directed by the IATF to prepare an inventory of hotel rooms that may be used by frontliners.

“Naatasan ng inter-agency ang Department of Tourism na magbigay ng hotel rooms kung saan puwede tumira ang ating health workers, ang ating frontliners. Napakaliit na bagay naman ito na ibibigay nattin sa frontliners dahil sa kanilang sakripisyo (The inter-agency has directed the Department of Tourism to give hotels rooms where health workers, our frontliners can stay. This is a small token for our frontliners for their sacrifices),” he said.

The IATF has also assigned the task group on the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers to craft protocols for the management and surveillance of land-based and sea-based workers upon their return to the country.

The government earlier announced it was requiring all Filipino workers returning to country to undergo a 14-day quarantine at designated facilities. The repatriated workers must also be subject to rapid antibody testing for COVID-19.

Roque said the government task group for resource management and logistics has also been directed to prepare a “compendium” for all logistical requirements for health and emergency frontliners. The logical requirements include personal protective equipment (PPE) sets and establishment of disinfection chambers subject to the guidelines of the health department.

The IATF has also adopted the “Stay Safe PH” ( as the official social distancing health condition reporting and contact training system to assist the government, according to Roque.

He noted that the health department has the capacity to conduct 2,500 to 3,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests per day. He said government’s accelerated testing is crucial to detect, isolate and treat patients infected by COVID-19.