A study by the University of the Philippines-College of Public Healh (UP-CPH) on the safety of using motorcycle taxis for public transport supports the return of Angkas who is primed to deploy its 30,000-strong biker pool into the roads of the National Capital region very soon.
The UP-CPH comprehensive paper expounds on the viability of the motorcycle as a vehicle to restore mobility despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while showing detailed guidelines that can keep both biker-driver, passenger, and perhaps even the people immediately proximate to them safe. Transmission of virus between both parties can and should be eliminated, restoring the public’s confidence as they slowly venture out of their homes into places like their offices, groceries, banks, markets, and even their children’s schools.
Angkas, the country’s leading app-based motorcycle taxi service, has been actively collaborating with the UP-CPH to devise strategies and form recommendations on how to make motorcycle taxi rides safe in the time of COVID. George Royeca, Angkas Chief Transport Advocate, says, “We worked with the UP-CPH team to conduct a science-backed study on how to make the motorcycle taxi safe in the time of COVID-19. While we are all looking forward to this day when we’re allowed to operate once more, we wanted to make sure that we are compliant with all safety regulations for the safety of our riders and our passengers.”
Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr.,UP-CPH Dean, confirmed the collaboration with Angkas and said that partnerships such as theirs are important to empowering people to resume their normal lives in the middle of the pandemic. Confirming that Angkas asked the UP-CPH “to provide guidelines and recommendations for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the transport industry,” Dr. Belizario added that “public health is innately collaborative. Kailangan magkatulungan. We continue to understand this disease better, as we tackle health challenges today.”
Dr. Belizario also added, “Angkas has taken the lead in ensuring that motorcyle taxis are properly equipped and safe for public use, which makes them more than prepared to perform public transport once that door opens. Motorcycle taxis can be allowed to operate if health and safety guidelines we have recommended are strictly implemented.”
Given that COVID-19 thrives and infects people in poorly ventilated spaces, the UP-CPH study points out that motorcycle taxis in fact help reduce this danger as both biker partners and passengers, while riding on the vehicle, are not confined in an enclosed structure. Citing research done at Southern University in Guangzhou, China, the study emphasizes that higher wind velocity has a high possibility of decreasing confirmed case counts. This is due to high wind speeds being advantageous to the dilution and removal of droplets, hence shortening the suspension time of microorganisms in the air.
“A moving motorcycle naturally creates sufficient ventilation which is crucial in preventing COVID-19 transmission,” Royeca concurs. “We have followed the safety protocols mentioned in the study. When the local government units (LGUS) partnered with us to help bring their health workers to and from their destinations, there has not been one incident of virus transmission.”
Another partnership that Angkas recently joined to accelerate the opening of public transport while keeping travel safe is the Ingat Angat Tayong Lahat campaign. Royeca spearheaded the largest alliance of brands and conglomerates to restore consumer confidence by encouraging the public to observe safety protocols.
In the UP-CPH study, motorcycle taxis are deemed safe as long as strict adherence to the safety guidelines is followed. Both the partner-bikers and passengers are required to wear protective equipment such as masks and helmets. The biker’s visor helmet, which has recently been required among individuals riding a motorbike, can also act as a face shield.
To further ensure non-transmission of the virus between the biker partner and the passenger, both should regularly comply with the following health standards: regular hand hygiene; disinfection of commonly touched surfaces; and the washing and cleansing of protective equipment.
While the study notes that plastic shields that act as barriers between passengers and partner-bikers still have to meet the approval of peer-reviewed studies, the use of non-permeable barriers is allowed to minimize possible person-to-person transmission of the virus. Angkas’ shield has been approved for use by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). Dozens of Angkas shields had been donated to the motorcycle-owning healthcare workers in several cities such as Pasay, Pasig, and Manila during the lockdown.
The UP-CPH study also recommends other layers of protection for motorcycle taxi use, such as the verification of identity through facial recognition, contact tracing capability; and immediate reporting to the platform provider in the event that virus symptoms break out and persist; and strict compliance with medical advice from a healthcare provider.
Royeca says that contactless payments which will lessen the exchange of physical money between passenger and driver have been added to their app. A contact tracing tool has also been embedded in the Angkas software, which could help in detecting the location of infected individuals if needed. Angkas also has constant reminders advising partner-bikers and passengers alike to reveal this information to the platform provider should they test positive for COVID-19; the Angkas app also advises them to seek medical advice and cooperate with contact tracing efforts.
Royeca maintains that infection prevention and the constant updating of control measures to maintain it remain Angkas’ priority. Recognizing the need to balance health concerns with financial and employment needs, he says, “We understand that it is crucial to re-open the economy, and with it gradually mobilize the people through effective and safe modes of transport. However, we need to put utmost importance on our biker partners’ and our passengers’ safety with the utmost importance.”
“Safety has always been the core of Angkas’ operation. In this time of pandemic, we consider it our civic responsibility to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” says Royeca, “and we will continue to innovate and be vigilant as our bikers soon begin bringing passengers to their destinations again.”