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Let us have a change in pace. Today, I will not talk about the one-seat apart rule in public transportation. I will not call your attention to its haphazard and  immediate implementation last week just the morning after it was announced to have been approved by President Duterte in a late night cabinet meeting.

Let us not talk about the fact that it does not matter that there are no clear, published guidelines from the Land Transportation Franchising and  Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which governs how public transportation operates, on how this one seat apart rule will be implemented. A press release, snazzy infographics and slick videos about the Seven Commandments of Public Transportation on social media would suffice. We should all be able to learn everything that we need to know from press releases and Facebook posts whether we are commuters, bus drivers, bus conductors, or even bus operators. 

Since every commuter has a Facebook account,  everyone should be able to know what to do as soon as they wake up and check their social media news feeds. And if you have been watching the news on television, like every normal person, or have opened your social media accounts as you do every day, you should know about every pressing issue that affects your health and well-being during this pandemic. 

Remember that old saying, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one?” 

Also, you should not worry that the person a seat away from you could be an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier. As long as he or she doesn’t have symptoms, you will be safe in every ride you take to work and back. Our government officials believe this, so you should too. 

One seat away in a bus is about 0.60-meters, which is only slightly less than the contentious 0.75-meters which was proposed and vehemently opposed just a few weeks back. Remember that one? Letting a couple of weeks pass and putting up plastic sheets to separate people inside public transport in order to change how infectious COVID-19 should be good enough. 

Oh, and I won’t bother you too about that “commandment” which states that  those who do show symptoms will not be let on board the bus, or the train or any public utility vehicle for that matter. Because knowing someone is sick COVID-19 is easy. 

Remember, there are hyper-accurate thermometer checks before anyone gets to board public transport. 

When was the last time you registered a near-hypothermic 35-degrees Celsius from those thermometer guns? Congratulations! That is way below the 37.5-degrees Celsius and above body temperature that bars you from boarding any ride or entering any establishment. 

These calibrated handgun thermometers, when they have them on hand,  just work perfectly every time, right? Every bus, jeepney, UV Express van and  even the MRT will still have someone to measure each boarding passenger’s body temperature. Rest assured that no one who is obviously exhibiting a fever will end up beside you. Even if the trains will be more tightly packed this week because of the Department of Transportation directive to increase the passenger capacity of the MRT. 

And just in case you have not heard yet, PUVs are now going to be exposed to potentially  harmful  ultraviolet light devices as a means of disinfection too. How exactly they will do that and how often, we do not know yet. As of this writing,  no specific guidelines have been released by the LTFRB on the matter. Hopefully, by the time this piece comes out, they would have already farmed them out to the press. Because disseminating information is very easy in the digital age. Even if the government releases highly important guidelines a few hours before they are implemented,  millions of commuters like you will be able to read, absorb and understand them immediately. 

And if you hear doctors saying that UV light use may be detrimental to your health, don’t be alarmed.  It is just an opinion based on science anyway. And you, a well-informed citizen, will know better than to believe everything these doctors and scientists say. They just spent the better part of their lives learning how viruses become infectious and how a pandemic should be dealt with anyway. So why trust them when they say now is not the right time to get more people out?

The LTFRB will soon come up with the proper rules and procedures on how and when these potentially harmful UV light devices should be used. Eventually. They will. Just be patient.  Nothing to worry about. 

Oh, one more thing that is new. Just learn not to talk and not to eat when you’re inside a PUV. Because every time you open your mouth you can be a spreader of the virus. Keeping your mouth shut is just a minor inconvenience. Much like when you’re doing business in a bank. But if it means you will have higher chances of not contracting COVID-19 in the MRT, or the bus, or the jeepney, heck, just keep quiet and keep your hunger pangs at bay. Having stale saliva is better than contracting coronavirus, right? Just tap on the ceiling when you want to get off a jeepney, for example. That is how we have been doing it since time immemorial anyway.

So, let us just ignore the fact that for the first 15 days of October, there have been on the average, 2,467 new positive cases of COVID-19 confirmed daily nationwide. Because shouting that out loud would just cause undue alarm. We are after all, according to the government, on a downward trend in terms of new cases each day. 

COVID-19 positivity rate has been going down lately too. And the much referred to R0, or R naught number that gives scientists an idea on how many persons one infected individual passes the virus to, is down to R0=0.97. No doubt because of your religious use of face masks and face shields every time you leave your homes. 

Take comfort in the fact that science has been the basis of every economic recovery measure the government has proposed, so far. Really. That is what they keep saying. And you only just have to believe them because, well, they are the government and they are composed of the best and the brightest.  

Don’t forget that your health is the government’s priority. Just look at the decades’ worth of health programs and measures implemented by this and previous administrations to prevent and control pandemics like what we have now with COVID-19. They have all been effective, right?

So don’t worry. Go back to work. Ride the bus. Take a jeepney. Hop on the MRT. Just trust everything that the government tells you and follow their guidelines to the tee. Or as Die Hard hero John McClane puts it, “Come out to coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.”

People, your tax money is working here. Remember, a vaccine is coming. And soon, everything will be back to normal. So no need to think about any of these issues today. 

I will, however, talk about our civic duty to protect ourselves and our neighbors, our families and friends during this pandemic. It is not the time to propagate hate. Rather, it is the time to come together and take care of not just  yourselves, but more importantly those around us. 

For everyone’s sake, follow everything that the government says. Follow the Seven Commandments of Public Transportation. The economy needs you back. And the country needs you to protect yourselves as you return to your jobs. The country needs you to spend, so that businesses can get back on their feet. Complain and rant if you must, but at least do your share to help restart our economy.

This is not just about you and what is convenient and easy to do. It is about all of us and how we can work together, protect each other, and cooperate with one another for our health, safety and survival.

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