Here we go again.
For the nth time, the National Capital Region will be subjected to another enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)-type lockdown, this time to contain the transmission of the more virulent Delta strain of the novel coronavirus. This ECQ will be in force for two weeks, from Aug. 6 to 20, as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to curb the spread of Covid-19 cases.
On Aug. 3, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued an advisory declaring that current public transport operations would continue, but heightened restrictions on passenger capacities and stricter health protocols would be imposed.
DOTr has issued a list of public transport modes available, as well as private vehicles allowed on the streets during the ECQ. Available public transport would be the trains (strict physical distancing to be imposed); public utility buses (50 percent capacity, one seat apart, no standing); traditional and modern public utility vehicles and jeepneys (50 percent capacity, one seat apart, no standing), UV Express vans (maximum of two persons per row, not exceeding 50 percent capacity, one passenger allowed on driver’s row);
Taxis (maximum of 2 persons per row, one passenger only on driver’s row); TNVs (single trip multiple booking not allowed); motorcycle taxis (limited to pilot study, subject to National Task Force Against Covid-19—NTF—guidelines); tricycles (Subject to Department of Interior and Local Government/Local Government Unit–DILG/LGU–approval), maximum of one passenger in the sidecar, no backride); provincial buses (50 percent capacity, one seat apart, no standing, subject to LGU restrictions);
Domestic/international flights (subject to compliance with travel restrictions, protocols imposed by IATF/LGU); Ro-Ro vessels (Subject to compliance with travel restrictions, protocols imposed by IATF/LGU).
DOTr advises air and sea passengers to avoid inconvenience by first inquiring with their airlines or shipping lines/Ro-Ro about the status of flights/sea travels, and if they are allowed to board such flights before going to the airport or seaport.
Allowed private transportation include shuttle services (one-seat apart; subject to Department of Trade and industry-Department of Labor and Employment joint memorandum circular: DTI-DOLE JMC No. 2020-04-A guidelines); sedans/SUVs (maximum of two persons per row; one passenger only on driver’s row); private motorcycles (subject to NTF guidelines); Trucks for hire (allowed for essential cargo only); bicycle (no backride), and; e-scooters (no backside).
All trains of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), LRT-1, LRT-2, and the MRT-3 will be deployed during the ECQ period. These trains will be disinfected after every loop. Transport marshals inside the trains will also strictly enforce health and safety protocols, which include the wearing of face shields and masks at all times; compliance to the “no talking and eating” policy; ensuring adequate airflow and ventilation; and enforcement of social distancing, as well as proper disinfection and sanitation. Passengers showing symptoms of Covid-19 will not be allowed to board trains. Temperature checks will be done at station entrances.
DOTr Secretary Art Tugade stressed that only authorized persons outside residence (APORs) as identified by the IATF-EID would be allowed to travel and be accommodated by public transport services.
DOTr also announced that health protocols shall be strictly enforced across all modes of public transportation.
Tugade said the latest Omnibus Guidelines approved by the IATF-EID have allowed the continued operation of public transportation, at such capacity and supply as recommended by the DOTr.
Tugade clarified, however, that the IATF may make changes on the number of public transport vehicles to be allowed during the ECQ period as well as on the number of commuters allowed in public transport, as the situation warrants.
Follow ‘7 commandments’
Tugade said stricter health protocols will also be enforced by I-ACT officers and transport marshals at the various transport terminals and stations to make sure that public transport health protocols will be observed. Marshals would be strictly enforcing the following “7 commandments of public transport safety”:
1. Wear masks and face shields; 2. No talking and making phone calls; 3. No eating; 4. Keep public utility vehicles well-ventilated; 5. Conduct frequent disinfection; 6. No passengers with Covid-19 symptoms are to be allowed inside public transportation; and 7. Observe appropriate physical distancing (“one-seat-apart”) rule.
Tugade also appealed to commuters and transport operators to follow strict health protocols, especially at this time when the country is facing the more contagious Delta variant.
“We are more adamant now, as we reinforce the government initiatives and measures to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” Tugade said.