Medical community welcomes gov’t decision to maintain 1-meter distancing in PUVs

Published September 19, 2020, 11:07 AM

by Gabriela Baron

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) welcomed the government’s decision to suspend the implementation of the reduced physical distancing required in public utility vehicles (PUVs).

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

HPAAC said the move “averted additional COVID-19 transmissions” that reduced physical distancing may have caused.

“The study made by HPAAC estimates that given the current context, reducing physical distancing in the transport sector to 0.75 meter will aggravate this by adding 700 new daily infections despite simultaneous implementation of other strategies such as face shields and masks,” the group said in a statement dated September 18.

It added that out of the assumption of 700 newly infected individuals, 140 will be hospitalized and 7 will die.

HPAAC thanked the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Health, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Metro Manila mayors for supporting the appropriate minimum 1-meter distance as policy.

“HPAAC believes that there’s a power in solidarity. The broad support from various sectors fuels our passion to continue to stand for evidence-informed policies and evidence-based interventions that continue to protect our fellow Filipinos from this pandemic,” it added.

HPAAC emphasized that reducing physical distancing is not the country’s only option to address transportation shortage. The group recommended the following solutions:

  • Incentivize return to operation of PUVs by early release of subsidies
  • Facilitate service contracting of transport providers
  • Increase active transport options such as bike lanes and walkways
  • Implement staggered work hours for selected business to reduce vehicle congestion

HPAAC is a coalition of over 160 organizations composed of doctors, nurses, midwives, and allied medical professionals working closely with the public and private sector to address COVID-19 pandemic.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced today (September 19) that President Duterte has decided to maintain the one-meter distancing rule in public transportation after weighing the concerns of various groups.

A week ago, the DOTr announced it was easing the prescribed distancing measures in public transportation as the government reopens the economy. However, this was met with criticisms not just from the public but also from medical frontliners.

The DOTr backpedaled on Thursday and suspended the implementation of the 0.75 meter physical distancing in public transport until the President has decided on the matter.

 
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