Medical workers are asking the Duterte government to walk back its decision to minimize physical distancing in public transport, arguing that the measure will only increase the number of coronavirus cases in the country.
Dr. Anna Ong Lim of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 told cable news channel ANC today that they have submitted a model data to the government which estimated that the number of coronavirus transmissions will increase by the “hundreds” because of reduced distancing in public vehicles.
“These are assumptions that will change based on data that were plugged in, but with just a 0.75 meter [distancing] we were seeing hundreds of cases increasing because of the recommendation or new rule. We submitted the modeling data and requested them to reconsider the implementation until more reliable information can be obtained, and a better estimate could be prepared,” Lim said.
Since yesterday, the Department of Transport imposed the distancing rule in public commutes to 0.75 meters which will run for 14 days under observation. If transmission rates remain stable, distancing will further be reduced to 0.5 meters and 0.3 meters in the succeeding two-week periods.
Lim said that two weeks is also the length of time that a person will start showing COVID-19 symptoms, which makes reviewing data for two-week intervals problematic.
“Two weeks is too short a period to make the conclusion that there was or was not an impact with this change in the physical distancing recommendation. Maybe we’re talking about looking at data for over a one month period, but the problem is by then, it would have been difficult to catch up already should there have been adverse consequences,” she said.
Lim added that because the country still has a high number of recorded cases, now at 265,888, “the new recommendations are not well-advised” and that the government should wait until the country logs fewer cases before implementing the said rule. The World Health Organization has said that maintaining a one-meter distance could help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
She added that the government should also look into other ways to improve transport such as adding more vehicles and staggering commuters’ work hours instead of cramming them into crowded vehicles.
“I think everybody agrees that there’s a need to provide better, safer, more public transportation, otherwise it will be very difficult to open up the economy,” she said.
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