IATF eases distancing rules for commuters

A modern jeepney with routes from Roces to Cubao as it starts picking up passengers on June 22. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

Distancing rules in public transport have been eased, allowing jeeps, buses, trains, and planes to carry more passengers amid the region’s worst coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said.

The one-meter physical distancing rule has been reduced to 0.75 meters, and will be gradually eased to a third of a meter in a month. Commuters will still have to wear face masks and face shields, the agency said, and passengers are still discouraged from speaking while inside public vehicles. Standing commuters will be allowed in buses.

The distancing rule change will be implemented starting Sept. 14.

The agency and economic managers’ proposal to increase public transport ridership and accommodate more people going back to work was approved by the government’s coronavirus task force, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement Friday.

“There is a need to safely optimize the carrying capacity of the various public transport modes as Metro Manila and its adjacent areas to continue with the transition towards the ‘new normal’ where more workers are expected to return to their re-opened workplaces and more businesses are expected to resume operations that were stopped during the enforcement of strict quarantine measures,” said Mr. Tugade.

The easing is in line with economic officials’ push to reopen the economy more, even with the highest coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, with over 250,000 infections as of Friday.

The physical distancing requirements in the various train lines — LRT-1, LRT-2, MRT-3, and PNAR — will also be reduced, increasing capacity. Passenger load capacity of roll on-roll off vessels will also be increased.

“As for airlines and passenger ferries, optimizing the physical distance between passengers will mean more passengers being allowed to enter airports and seaports,” the statement said. — Gillian M. Cortez with a Bloomberg report

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