MRT-3 operations suspended starting July 7 over rising COVID-19 cases among workers

Published July 6, 2020, 8:11 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

The Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) will temporarily suspend its operations starting Tuesday, July 7, following the increasing number of its personnel who tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced on Monday.

In a virtual press briefing, DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Timothy John Batan said the temporary suspension was resolved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) after the number of personnel infected by the disease rose to 186 as of Sunday afternoon.

Of the infected personnel, 169 are depot staff, 12 are personnel from the railway’s three stations, three are train drivers, and two are from the operations control center.

Batan said the suspension will be undertaken to give way to the swab testing of all rail personnel, including maintenance providers and subcontractors, to prevent further spread of the disease, as well as to protect the health and safety of employees and commuters.

“Sa kasalukuyan, ang bilang ng positive cases sa MRT-3 ay umakyat na sa 186, kabilang dito ang 12 personnel galing sa tatlong istasyon. Isa ito sa mga factor na na-consider ng IATF sa pagresolve na isuspend ang operations simula bukas (Currently, the number of positive cases in the MRT-3 has gone up to 186, including 12 personnel from three stations. This is one of the factors that the IATF considered in resolving to suspend operations starting tomorrow),” he added.

Batan said the duration of the shutdown is initially scheduled until July 11 but may be shortened or extended, until the management confirms a sufficient number of train personnel who will test negative and sustain limited operations.

Out of the MRT-3’s more than 3,200 workforce, Batan pointed out that it will require at least 1,300 personnel to be able to resume limited operations. Currently, 964 additional negative personnel are required to resume.

As the period of the suspension depends on the pace and results of the RT-PCR testing, Batan mentioned that they already coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who will facilitate the testing at the Palacio de Maynila swabbing center, with the assistance of the Philippine Red Cross.

“Personnel that test positive will be directed to the appropriate government quarantine facility, while those who are confirmed negative will form part of the pool that will operate the system upon resumption of operations,” the DOTr said in a statement.

During the temporary shutdown, MRT-3 Director Michael Capati said they will conduct thorough disinfection of all the line’s facilities, including the depot, stations, and trains.

Capati added that the management continues to intensify its health and safety protocols such as the mandatory wearing of full personal protective equipment of all MRT-3 personnel, and increased disinfection activities, among others.

He also said that they will temporarily implement a manual contact tracing for passengers as they wait for a computerized system.

“We will announce ang mga station and the time frame period kung saan nandoon ang mga concerned personnel na nag-positive for the guidance of the passengers. Habang walang contact tracing app, we will be implementing it manually muna (We will announce the stations and the time frame period in which the infected personnel are present for the guidance of the passengers. While there is still no contact tracing app, we will be implementing it manually),” Capati added.

Meanwhile, to help ferry commuters, the DOTr said the MRT-3 Bus Augmentation Program will continue to deploy 90 buses and reduced the fixed dispatching interval from every five minutes to every three minutes.

In addition, 150 buses will be deployed for the EDSA Busway service, to transport passengers between Monumento and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX).

A mini loop will also run between Timog Avenue and Ortigas to service passengers, where shuttle services or mini buses will be allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at the curbside.