Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday wearing a face mask and observing social distancing while riding an open-air public utility vehicle such as jeepneys would provide enough protection against the coronavirus.
The Usec made the response the day after the IBON foundation urged the government to lift the indefinite ban on public utility jeepneys (PUJs), saying international studies showed riding open-air vehicles would not pose a risk of getting the respiratory disease.
“The mode of transmission is droplet infection. With or without aircon [in a vehicle], basta naka-mask kayo lahat, you are distant to the person next to you at hindi kayo cramped, the possibility of getting infected is very low,” Vergeire said in a virtual forum.
(As long all of you are wearing masks, you are distant to the person next to you and you are not cramped, the possibility of getting infected is very low.)
“With aircon or without aircon, if you do not wear your mask, mahahawa kayo kung meron man roon [na COVID-19 infected],” she added.
(With aircon or without aircon, if you do not wear your mask, you could get infected if someone in there has the virus.)
Vergeire, however, did not openly recommend the return of the traditional open-air jeepneys as part of the allowed public transport since they are yet to be reconfigured to meet the minimum health protocols.
“Napakalaki rin kasi ng risk kapag sa jeepney. Ang kanilang upuan, facing each other, di katulad sa bus na hindi magkakaharap,” Vergeire said.
(There’s still a high risk in the jeepney. Their seats are facing each other, unlike with the buses.)
“May nakita akong prototype ng DOTr (Department of Transportation) na may spacing in between [seats], barriers or engineering control. Ang problema ay kung makaka-comply ba ang jeepney drivers dahil hirap rin sila sa pera. Kailangan nilang maglabas ng pera para magawa ang mga iyon sa kanilang jeepney,” she added.
(I saw a DOTr prototype that has a spacing between seats, barriers, or engineering control. The problem is if the jeepney drivers could comply because they also struggle financially. We need to release money so they could reconfigure their jeepneys.)
“DOH issued minimum public health standards, at ang magpapatupad nito ang kani-kanilang ahensiya. Ang magpapatupad nito sa jeepneys are DOTr. They should ensure that as we ease restrictions, the minimum health standards will be complied [with],” Vergeire said.