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Doctors on DOTr’s new public transpo rules: What is your basis?

The consensus apparently boils down to this phrase: COVID-19 ang mag-a-adjust.

The Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) new social distancing measures did not sit well with netizens—particularly those from the medical industry.

Over the weekend, the DOTr announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) had approved their proposal to “increase ridership in public transportation by optimizing or reducing physical distance between commuters.”

According to the post on their official Facebook page, the DOTr said the 1-meter physical distancing measure can be safely adjusted to 0.75 meters today, September 14–eventually going down to 0.3 meters after a month.

IATF OKs EDC, DOTr PROPOSAL TO BOOST PUBLIC TRANSPORT RIDERSHIP WITH REDUCED PHYSICAL DISTANCING; TO START OPTIMIZATION…

Posted by Department of Transportation – Philippines on Friday, September 11, 2020

DOTr said this will allow for optimization of ridership, and that the request came from citizens—at least according to DOTr Usec. Artemio Tuazon, Jr.

DOTr says the request to ease the distancing rules in public transport came from citizens, in line with the opening up of the economy amid the COVID-19 crisis. www.cnn.ph

Posted by CNN Philippines on Monday, September 14, 2020

Netizens were understandably not happy that the blame was being passed onto them, as the consensus was to allow more jeeps and buses to be on the road.

Medical experts, however, questioned the decision by the DOTr, saying there is no basis for the DOTr to adjust social distancing measures in public utility vehicles.

https://twitter.com/ronibats/status/1304661878988103680

The Department of Health (DOH) has also come out with a statement about the matter.

STATEMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH ON PHYSICAL DISTANCING IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT.13 SEPTEMBER 2020

Posted by Department of Health (Philippines) on Sunday, September 13, 2020

Their statement did not sit well with netizens, with some pointing out how the health department is also passing on the responsibility to Filipinos instead of stepping in.

Even former IATF consultant Dr. Tony Leachon was not impressed by the DOH statement. He described the statement as “weak, confusing, and arbitrary”, adding that it sends both wrong and mixed messages to the riding public.

In a CNN interview, one of the more controversial health experts seems to be taking the side of the DOTr: infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Salvana.

Salvana says there is no clear evidence to support or refute the decision to decrease the physical distance in public transport, so long as people wear masks and face shields.

He did, however, err to the side of caution and advised the DOTr to not pursue its plan of adjusting the distance every two weeks. “I would prefer that they do pilot implementations with careful observation of any spikes in cases and with informed consent of the people.”


This did not deter netizens from taking caution after reading Salvana’s statements as he has been known to not take kindly to criticism after declaring that COVID-19 was under control in February—resorting to either hiding replies or blocking people who expressed an opinion different from his own.

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