Why Reduced Physical Distancing In Public Transport Needs Further Study
Manila Bulletin|September 22, 2020
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Why Reduced Physical Distancing In Public Transport Needs Further Study
Six months after the initial lock-down of the National Capital Region, people are slowly try-ing to get back to a semblance of normalcy. One of the less welcome signs of this process is the increasing amount of traffic on the road.
DR. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana

As more businesses open, the demand for transport increases as employees physically go back to work. This presents a real problem due to the double whammy of the reduced number of public utility vehicles on the road, plus the reduced capacity from the mandatory physical distancing rules in each vehicle.

To address this problem, the Department of Transportation proposed decreasing the distance between people in public utility vehicles to less than one meter. This proposal was vetted by its own public health experts, which included at least two former health secretaries. It was met, however, with a firestorm of protest from medical groups and even within the IATF. What is the available evidence for reducing the distance between people in public transport? Are the proposed additional health measures sufficient to mitigate the risk of decreasing physical distance? How can we address these questions while minimizing the risk to the riding public?

There are three interventions with solid scientific evidence that have been found to decrease Covid-19 transmission. These are mask-wearing, use of eye protection, and observing a physical distance of at least one meter. The use of medical or cloth masks can reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission by up to 85 percent. Eye protection, such as face shields, can decrease the risk by 78 percent. Physical distancing of at least one meter can decrease the risk by 80 percent.

Combined, all three measures can theoretically decrease the risk of transmission by more than 90 percent. This is, however, an estimate and can be affected by how well everyone adheres to these measures.


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September 22, 2020