The implementation of the reduced physical distancing in public transportation could possibly increase the risk of virus transmission, according to an epidemiologist.

01062020 MRTGCQ ROMERO 8 1024x683 - Reduced passenger spacing in PUVs increases risk of virus transmission — epidemiologist
(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Dr. Rontgene Solante, infectious disease director of San Lazaro Hospital, said the minimum distance to ensure maximum protection against virus transmission is 1 meter.

“We have no studies that support that reducing physical distance to 0.75 meters will protect us. Because the minimum protection is really 1 meter and longer or more distance. If you reduce it, of course there will be risks even if you’re wearing face shield and face mask,” Solante said in an interview over DZMM Teleradyo Monday.

The medical expert also expressed concern about the possible clustering of COVID-19 cases in crowded and enclosed spaces in public utility vehicles (PUVs).

“Our transport system are enclosed spaces. You’ll also have crowding. When you have crowding of people from different places, then you’ll have possible clustering of different exposed individuals that can somehow be in that particular area. That increases the risk of transmission,” he reiterated.

Solante recommended at least one to two-meter distance in enclosed spaces to prevent virus spread through droplets, small bits of saliva, or respiratory fluid.

“It can be as long as one to two meters as long as there’s poor ventilation. Ventilation is important in reducing the transmission of virus via droplets,” he added.

Metro mayors not consulted

Metro Manila Council Chairman and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said metro mayors are alarmed that they were not consulted before the Department of Transportation (DOTr) implemented the reduced physical distance inside PUVs.

In an interview over CNN, Olivarez said the decision to gradually relax physical distancing in public utility vehicles (PUV) was discussed during the mayors’ meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Sunday.

“That is our concern yesterday because before they issue a guideline on [that], there [was] no proper consultation with the National Capital Region’s [mayors] regarding the reduced physical distancing in public transportation,” he said.

However, Olivarez said the IATF vowed to “revisit” the reduced distancing rules in PUVs with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III presenting a clear data on its effects and possible repercussions.

Allow more modes of public transportation

Meanwhile, Move as One Coalition Spokesperson Jedd Ugay urged the government to instead allow more modes of public transport to accommodate more commuters and prevent crowding in PUVs.

“Instead of reducing social distancing, why not increase the number of public transport? So we will accommodate more passengers and still practice the 1-meter social distancing,” he told DZMM.

Ugay said there is not clear evidence to support the decision to decrease the physical distancing in public transport.

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