The government has set a deadline for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers in Metro Manila to complete their COVID-19 jabs to continue using public transportation under the "No Vaccination, No Ride" policy.
In a joint statement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said workers in industries allowed to operate under Alert Level 3, who are yet to complete their vaccines, will only be given 30 days to continue riding public utility vehicles (PUVs) going to, from, and within the National Capital Region (NCR).
The 30-day window will begin Jan. 26 until Feb. 25, the agencies added.
The reformulation of the policy was discussed and approved during an interagency meeting last week attended by DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and DILG Secretary Eduardo Año based on the country's vaccination data.
During a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Jan. 26, DOTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. said the decision intends to protect those unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers who are using public transportation from contracting COVID-19 and later developing severe infections.
"This is to ensure that only those fully protected against COVID-19 are safe from using public transport. Data show that workers who remain unvaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 are more vulnerable to severe and critical infections," Tuazon explained.
This was echoed by DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, adding that the new protocol will also protect the country's healthcare system from reaching again a critical level.
According to Malaya, the "No Vax, No Ride" policy will be fully implemented after the 30-day period, which means only fully vaccinated passengers will be allowed to use public transportation.
Tuazon also explained that workers who will remain unvaccinated after 30 days will only be barred from using PUVs but not from their workplaces.
"They are simply not allowed to use public transportation, but can still use other means such as active transport, private vehicles, or company shuttle services," he said.
However, Tuazon clarified that exemptions stated in the DOTr's Department Order No. 2022–001 will remain even after the 30-day window. These include travelers who have medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated and those who will avail of "essential goods and services."
The DOTr official said the decision is part of the agencies' efforts to support the government's ongoing thrust to ramp up vaccination efforts, especially amid the threat of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
"We want our workers to get fully vaccinated especially now that there is no longer a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, and there is a threat of highly transmissible variants of the virus. We are giving our workers the time to get themselves vaccinated," he added.
The "No Vaccination, No Ride” policy was implemented in Metro Manila since January 17 following a renewed surge in the number of COVID-19 infections in the capital region.
The policy covers all modes of public transportation in the road, railway, aviation, and maritime sectors.
The restriction will remain in effect while the National Capital Region is under Alert Level 3 or a higher quarantine classification.