Resumption of bus, train operations with fewer passengers eyed

MANILA, Philippines – The government is studying the possibility of allowing bus and train operations after April 30 but at partial capacity to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This option was discussed at the April 20 meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

He was speaking in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, April 22, hosted by the government's communication arm.

"Studies shown by the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) secretary mentioned that if we have partial operability of transportation, especially buses, there should be 30% capacity so that there can be social distancing," he said in Filipino.

"That is also what will be done with LRT1, LRT2, MRT3, and PNR," he said, referring to the metro rail, light rail, and national railways in Metro Manila.

The government would also likely impose measures like a "no mask, no ride" policy, mandatory thermal scanning at train stations and bus terminals, and reminders for passengers to wash their hands frequently .

But the limited resumption of public transportation is yet to be approved by the IATF. The Luzon-wide lockdown that suspended transportation will last until April 30.

How about jeepneys, tricycles, taxis, and private vehicles? Tugade is yet to clarify the discussion on allowing jeeps, tricycles, taxis, and private vehicles to ply the roads.

But Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said private cars and modes of transportation where physical distancing is possible should be allowed in a modified lockdown scenario.

Jeepneys and tricycles are critical modes in Luzon's public transportation system. A majority of the working class depend on them to get around, especially in places far from bus and train routes.

When will public transportation resume? The task force and President Rodrigo Duterte are yet to decide on the post-April 30 scenario for Metro Manila or the entire Luzon province which has been on lockdown since March 17.

The Chief Executive is set to make his decision on the lockdown on Thursday, April 23. 

Health experts he consulted recommended a lifting of a Luzon-wide lockdown with strict quarantine measures imposed only on provinces or cities with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

Among the areas that they say should remain in some form of lockdown or quarantine is Metro Manila, the region with the highest number of cases in the country.

As of writing, the Philippines has 6,559 coronavirus cases with 437 deaths. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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