IATF did not approve reducing distance in public transport: Año
Despite being implemented on Monday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday said reducing the distance between passengers inside public transportation is subject for approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
In a radio interview, Año said easing the physical distance from one meter to 0.75 meter was not presented by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) during their 69th and 70th IATF meetings.
“DOTr just released their operational guidelines then immediately implemented it,” he said.
“It did not go through the IATF. Technically it’s not yet approved by the IATF. It’s an operational guideline,” Año added.
The IATF will tackle the distancing issue in public transportation Tuesday
According to the DOTr, from the usual one-meter distance between passengers, the distance has been cut to 0.75 cm to allow more people to commute to work. After two weeks, the distance will be reduced to 0.50 cm after authorities examine its effect, especially on COVID-19 cases.
Antonio Dans of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, said lowering the distance in public transport will result in 500 to 600 new COVID-19 cases daily.
''We assumed the following: commuters wearing face shield and face masks,'' Dans said in another radio interview.
Año clarified an interview of a DOTr official who said the reduction of physical distance was approved during their 69th meeting.
“It has never been approved in the 69th. What is approved is the adoption of recommendation of Secretary Karl Chua for the health experts and DOTr to study if they can change the health standards,” said Año.
“They should have talked to the health experts so that it will be clear on what will be the effect (of reducing physical distance). We cannot compare our country with other countries because when they ease (their guidelines). They already contained their active cases daily but us, we have not contained yet,” he said.
Año hoped that the transportation department would change their implementation and explain what happened.
He said maybe it’s the eagerness of DOTr to help passengers.
Año reiterated that it is better to add more public transportation than easing the physical distance as it will only result in more COVID-19 cases.
“For me, let’s add more (public vehicles). Now, if you will not follow the minimum health standards, you should have other measures like for example, wearing of PPE (personal protective equipment)… or cover all chairs with barriers. We cannot violate the one meter, that’s the minimum,” he said. Ella Dionisio/DMS