The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will conduct a random antigen test on passengers of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) as part of the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) amid the upsurge of cases in Metro Manila.
But DOTr SEc. Art Tugade was quick to clarify that the random antigen testing will only be conducted on consenting and volunteering passengers.
“The random antigen testing will help the DOTr gauge the level of COVID-19 presence in the rail lines,” said Tugade.
“The random antigen testing of consenting and volunteering passengers is intended to guide us in the adoption of any further needed measures. Passengers who volunteer to be tested will be permitted to proceed with their trip after testing, and will be informed of their test results by text message,” he added.
DOTr Undersecretary for Railways TJ Batan said that aside from random antigen test, they will also deploy train marshals to optimize the enforcement of health protocols inside trains and in stations.
“Deployed train marshals will make sure that all passengers will be wearing face masks, and will not talk, eat or make use of mobile phones while inside trains. In addition, the deployed train marshals will also enforce the physical distancing rule inside trains, where applicable, considering the current passenger capacity. However, physical distancing will be strictly enforced in station platforms and in station premises,” said Batan.
The DOTr action plan to contain spread of the COVID-19 came amid the rising number of cases in Metro Manila. President Duterte has approved the recommendation to place Metro Manila under COVID Alert Level 3.
Tugade said all rail lines will maintain the present 70 percent passenger capacity under the Alert Level 3 status, provided that strict health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be enforced.
“This is to avoid the ‘bottlenecking’ or crowding of passengers at stations, which may increase the risk of virus transmission,” said Tugade.
“Any adjustments or changes in the passenger capacity of rail lines, as well as in other modes of public transportation, will be subject to the guidance of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF),” he added.
Tugade also disclosed that he had already ordered the regular disinfection of trains, platforms, stations and depots, adding that contact tracing measures will also be continued.
To ensure the safety of all rail facilities, the DOTr has also required all rail personnel to undergo antigen testing, pursuant to prevailing protocols of the Department of Health.Physical reporting in offices of rail lines personnel will be limited to 60%, further to Alert Level 3 guidelines, which prescribe at least 30 percent.
Tugade said the DOTr Rail Sector will also be coordinating with its contractors and consultants on similar enhanced measures to be implemented for constructions workers and other personnel deployed at its various rail projects.
He said that he also ordered the Rail Sector to verify the vaccination and booster status of all rail personnel. He also ordered that booster shots be given to rail personnel to increase operational resilience.