Two experts from the University of the Philippines’ (UP) OCTA Research Team underscored the importance of social distancing as a “primary tool” of the country against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

09142020 LRT ROMERO 6 1 1024x683 - DOTr’s decision to reduce physical distance in public transport is risky – Prof. Rye

UP OCTA Research Team founder Prof. Ranjit Rye said the plan to relax physical distancing in public transportation could possibly increase COVID-19 transmission and negatively affect the country’s antivirus campaign.

“Yung social distancing yung tool natin laban sa COVID-19, hindi tayo pwedeng mag-MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine), ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) every time. Ang primary tool natin para labanan ang COVID-19 ay social distancing (Social distancing is our primary tool against COVID-19. We cannot just revert to MECQ, ECQ every time),” Rye stressed in an interview over DZBB Monday.

Rye hopes DOTr would reconsider its decision to prevent the further spread of the virus.

UP OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David echoed Rye’s sentiments. He said guidelines should be “science-based” before implementing them.

“Kailangan may evidence tayo na (We need evidence that says) it will not lead to community transmission. Kung wala tayong evidence, kung huhulaan lang natin, hindi natin alam kung anong mangyayari if we make a decision kung hindi sya evidence-based (If we don’t have evidence, if we’ll just guess, we don’t know what will happen if we make a decision that is not evidence-based),” David said.

He also fears that the new guideline may cause confusion among commuters.

“Yung iba baka alam nila 1 meter, tapos nagbabago na tayo. May psychological effect yan kasi kahit sabihin naman ng goverment, some people hindi naman pare-pareho yung response ng mga tao. It may cause some fear to [some] group of people (Reducing physical distance might confuse some people who have been used to the 1-meter distancing. It has a psychological effect. People respond differently and it may cause fear to some),” he added.

Instead of reducing physical distance, Rye said government must open additional modes of transportation.

“Grabe yung risk nitong bagong policy or decision ng DOTr. Kung kailangan naman i-increase yung public vehicles, lalo na yung public transportation like buses and jeep, pwede naman gawin yun (The risk of this decision is serious. If there is a need to increase the volume of public transport, it’s doable),” he continued.

“The best science is telling us, if you practice 1 to 2 meters, talagang yan yung primary na sandata natin (that’s our weapon) against COVID. It works. Hindi lang sa labas, kundi pati sa loob ng bus at jeep. Kasi ano pang argument, kung pwede .075, e di pwede dapat sa supermarket, restaurant. Nakakalito sa tao yan. Wag na natin palitan, eto na yung behavior natin. Damihan na lang yung jeep, damihan na lang yung bus (Physical distancing is our weapon against COVID-19 and it works not only on the streets but also in buses and jeepneys. If you allow .075 meters, that should likewise be allowed in supermarkets, restaurants. That will confuse the people. Let’s not change the one meter physical distance. a We are already used to it. Just increase the number of buses and jeepneys to increase ridership),” Rye ended.

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