Reduced physical distancing ‘will cause disaster, derail flattening of the curve’ — Leachon

Published September 18, 2020, 11:11 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog & Noreen Jazul

A former special adviser to the National Task Force against COVID-19 said reducing physical distancing in public transportation to less than a meter will cause “disaster.”

Dr. Tony Leachon, in an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday, said the one-meter distancing global standard should not be reduced.

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Malaki ang difference ng 0.75 sa one meter ayon sa pag-aaral (There’s a big difference between 0.75 and one meter based on studies). The greater the distance, the greater the reduction,” Leachon said.

“If we relax physical distancing in public transport, this may escalate and this could actually derail the flattening of the curve,” he added.

Citing meta-analysis or conglomeration data issued by The Lancet on June 1, Leachon said physical distancing of one meter reduces the chances of infection by 86 percent, two meters by 93 percent, and three meters by 96 percent.

He also said that while the “seven commandments,” which former Department of Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit has suggested are important, physical distancing remains on top of the hierarchy of protection measures.

“Based on The Lancet study, the single most effective [measure] is actually physical distancing. Just like the Bible, you have many commandments but the greatest of that is actually loving God and loving one another,” Leachon said.

“Even if you combine the seven commandments, this would not be in comparison with physical distancing,” he added.

Leachon also said that during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, a surge in cases was noted after physical distancing measures were relaxed.

“People who tend to ignore history would tend to repeat it,” he said.

Instead of reducing the physical distancing between passengers, the government should increase the volume of public transportation, Leachon urged.

With the country continues to post daily COVID-19 virus infections ranging from 3,000 to 4,000, Leachon cited that Dr. Antonio Dans of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Philippine College of Physicians has projected a surge of 688 per day if physical distancing in public transportation will be reduced.

“The gains generated from the last six months will be watered down by adjusting right now our physical distancing. That will be a big let down for Filipinos who have sacrificed for the last six months,” Leachon said.

Former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Esperanza Cabral is backing the implementation of reduced physical distancing in public transportation for as long as other health measures are observed.

Cabral echoed the statement of her predecessor, Dr. Manuel Dayrit, that “it’s possible to go below one meter” in terms of distancing.

In an interview with DZMM, Cabral said a slight adjustment in the distance will make no difference as long as other health measures are observed.

“Walang pinagkaiba sa 0.75 meters kasi lumingon ka lang, iusog mo lang ng konti yung pwet mo doon sa jeep, eh abot mo na yung 0.75 meters na yan (A 0.75-meter adjustment will make no difference because that is just like to turning your head in a different direction or slightly moving your position in jeepneys),” Cabral said.

What’s important, according to Cabral, is to keep wearing face masks and face shields “consistently and correctly.”

Cabral said handwashing will also help.

“Pag ginawa natin lahat ito, maski i-reduce natin mula sa one meter to 0.75 ‘yung layo ng ating pag dikit-dikit ay pwede na rin makatulong ito sa pag bukas ng ating ekonomiya, (As long as we do all of these things, even if we reduce the distance from one meter to 0.75, this will help in reopening the economy),” Cabral said.

The government has suspended the implementation of the reduced physical distancing measure following appeals from frontliners.

 
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