By PNA and Genalyn Kabiling
The government is finalizing the guidelines on the limited resumption of public transportation during the general community quarantine (GCQ), which will be implemented in some areas starting Friday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will discuss the guidelines that will be released on Thursday.
Mayroon pong bahagyang pagbukas na mangyayari kasi habang bukas ang mga industriya, hindi naman po pupuwedeng walang transportasyon ang mga tao. Isasapinal na po ‘yan sa araw na ito (There will be a partial reopening of transport because while industries are open, we can’t have people traveling without transport. It will be finalized today). By tomorrow (Thursday) po, malalaman na natin ang final guidelines (we will find out the final guidelines),” Roque said in an interview over GMA’s Unang Hirit on Wednesday.
Under the GCQ, Roque said the IATF has recommended the resumption of public transport “but in a reduced capacity.”
Jeepneys may remain banned under the GCQ since it would be difficult to maintain physical distancing while buses may be allowed for as long as passengers are seated on “every other seat,” he said.
The IATF-EID is also eyeing the resumption of limited operations of the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), LRT-2, Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), and the Philippine National Railways (PNR).
However, public transport remains suspended in areas under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which was extended in Metro Manila and some areas until May 15.
The IATF has also recommended the 50 percent to 100 percent reopening of select establishments “subject to minimum health standards” in areas under GCQ, Roque said.
Starting Friday, the provinces of Capiz, Aklan, Davao del Norte, Davao del Oro, and Aurora, as well as Iloilo City will be under GCQ.
Several sectors, including malls and commercial centers will be allowed to reopen subject to strict hygiene standards.
However, Roque said mall owners will be required to keep their airconditioning temperatures warm – at least 26°C – to prevent people from loitering.
Roque said the IATF may also tackle the possibility of requiring the elderly and children to remain indoors during the GCQ since they are most vulnerable to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Under the GCQ, mass gatherings such as concerts, conferences, parades, among others are still prohibited and the public will still be required to wear face masks.
The IATF’s recommendations are still subject to the approval of President Duterte.
Exemption for seniors mulled
Meanwhile, the government is expected look into proposals to exempt certain senior citizens from the strict stay-at-home policy in GCQ areas next month.
Roque said he hopes such exception will be considered, especially since many senior citizens are “decision-makers” in government and the private companies.
The IATF is scheduled to meet to finalize the guidelines for areas under ECQ and GCQ in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The list of industries and services that will be allowed to reopen will also be finalized by the task force.
“I hope they will also discuss exemptions to the rule that 60 years and above will have to stay home,” Roque said in the same TV interview.
Roque admitted that many senior citizens have appealed to him to relax the home quarantine rule on the elderly.
Based on the GCQ guidelines released by the Palace last week, persons below below 21 years old, 60 years old and above, and as well as those with health risk must stay at home.
“Actually I’ve been hounded by senior citizens since that announcement came out because apparently the 60 plus seniors are the decision-makers in different companies including government,” Roque said.
“I think 80 percent of the Cabinet are senior citizens as well so I hope they come up with exemptions to the rule that says senior citizens together with the youth will have to stay indoors,” he added.