IATF urged anew to reconsider rule on motorcycle barriers for riding couples

Robie de Guzman   •   July 20, 2020   •   423

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. on Monday reiterated his appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to reconsider its policy on the use of barriers for motorcycle riding couples.

In a statement, Revilla said the IATF should heed the sentiments of riders, several engineers and other experts on the mandatory installation of barriers in motorcycles due to concerns on safety, aerodynamics and maneuverability for riders.

“Napakarami po sa ating mga kababayan ang mismong nagsasabi na nahihirapan silang magbalanse at mag-maneuver ng kanilang motorsiklo dahil sa divider,” he said.

The senator suggested that the IATF conduct a comprehensive consultation among motorcycle manufacturers and experts to come up with better guidelines that will protect motorcycle riders from obtaining COVID-19 and at the same time, spare them from any road mishaps.

“Sa hirap po ng buhay ngayon lalo na’t marami sa ating mga kababayan ang walang hanapbuhay at pambili ng divider, napipilitan silang mag-improvise ng sarili nilang barricade. Mas nalalagay tuloy sa alanganin ang ating mga kababayan lalo na kung yung improvised na divider nila ay hindi matibay ang pagkakakabit, marupok ang materyales, o di kaya’y kulang o sobra sa bigat,” he said.

Revilla renewed his call after Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID Shield Commander, announced on July 18 that the government is extending the deadline for the installation of motorcycle barriers from July 19 to July 26.

Eleazar earlier said that the deadline was moved to give more time for motorcycle riders to install barriers based on the two designs approved by the task force.

“Gusto natin kasi na maka-comply sila, mabigyan ng mahaba pang oras para doon sa mga design na inilabas ng National Task Force. At ‘yon nga din ang panawagan n’ong iba na pwede makahinga ng extension pati na rin itong naglabas ng design at sa Angkas, sinasabi nga nila mas maganda siguro na mas makarami na maka-avail n’ong design na inilabas nila,” Eleazar said.

He said that after July 26, they will apprehend those who will violate the new rule.

Since the task force announced the policy allowing pillion riding in motorcycle for couples on July 10, authorities have monitored more than 7,000 violators in various parts of the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

Facility-based isolation for asymptomatic, mild COVID-19 cases now mandatory

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is now requiring facility-based isolation for confirmed asymptomatic and mild coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases through IATF Resolution 74.

The new policy however, exempts patients who are considered vulnerable or having comorbidities and their home meets the conditions specified in the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Joint Administrative Order 2020-0001. 

Likewise, another exception is when the Ligtas COVID-19 Centers within the region are fully occupied and the local government unit does not have sufficient isolation facilities.

IATF approves partial lifting of inbound travel restrictions for returning residents of Region VI

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 16, 2020

Returning residents of Region VI can now return to their hometowns after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved the partial lifting restrictions on inbound travel in the region.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from Region VI can finally come home.

“Mabuting balita po doon sa mga locally stranded na mga indibidwal galing po sa Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Antique at Iloilo City, na-lift na po ang moratorium sa pag-uuwi ng mga mamamayan na taga-rito. Puwede na po kayo muling umuwi,” he said.

The IATF issued resolution no. 71 lifting the temporary suspension of inbound travel of returning residents.

This was after local government units requested a moratorium on inbound travel of locally stranded individuals in Region IV, Iligan, and Lanao del Sur from September 7 to 21. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Group of medical experts back reduced distancing policy in public transport

Robie de Guzman   •   September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A panel of doctors on Tuesday expressed support for the gradual reduction of physical distancing inside public transportation vehicles.

The medical experts, which include former Department of Health Secretaries Manuel Dayrit and Esperanza Cabral, said that while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends keeping a distance of one meter from other passengers to the extent possible, “it allows for adjustments based on context.”

“Given our other recommended health interventions, we propose the gradual reduction of the physical distancing norm during transit to 0.5 meters or lower,” the group said in a statement.

“Based on our review of the scientific literature and the policies and experiences of neighboring countries, we believe the evidence shows physical distancing can be maintained below 1 meter, so long as other health measures are also implemented,” they added.

The group also includes NTF against COVID-19 Special Advisor Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, University of the Philippines Manila officials Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr. and Dr. Michael Hernandez, Philippine College of Surgeons Cancer Commission director Dr. Manuel Roxas, Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines founder and CEO Dr. Ma. Dominga Padilla, and Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante.

The group submitted its recommendations to the IATF regarding the reduced physical distancing in public transport.

Aside from the gradual reduction of physical distancing, they also urged the government to increase public transportation supply including trains, bus, jeepneys, motorcycle taxis, and Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS), and the use of other options such as cycling, walking, and private shuttles.

“We also recommend the full institutionalization of private sector expert consultation to further improve our overall management of the economy and public health,” the group said.

They stressed that while the efforts of the task force, Department of Health and the One Hospital Command to address the pandemic have “successfully increased and improved the current hospital capacity,” there is still an urgent need to revitalize the country.

They also emphasized that the economy cannot bounce back without increasing public transport capacity, which has been operating at only 20-30% of pre-pandemic levels due to fears of COVID-19 transmission.

They also pushed for the strict implementation of what they call as the “seven commandments” for all public transportation:

  • Wearing of proper face masks
  • Wearing of face shields
  • No talking and no eating
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Frequent and proper disinfection
  • No symptomatic passengers
  • Appropriate physical distancing

“By imposing these strict measures, we believe we can gradually relax social distancing rules, in order to double or even triple our current public transport capacity, without compromising public health,” the group said.

They cited as evidence several studies that support the reduction of physical distancing in public utility vehicles.

“A recent study from Duke University, for example, shows that surgical masks reduce droplet transmission by up to 99%, and that the simple act of not talking can reduce droplet counts by up to 4x,” the group said.

“A meta-analysis published on June 22, 2020 in The Lancet, a leading international medical journal, shows that face masks and face shields can independently reduce the chance of viral transmission by up to 5-fold and 3-fold, respectively,” they added.

The panel of experts also said that in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other countries, passengers wear face masks while sitting side-by-side in trains, while COVID cases remain “manageable.”

“We believe that there is a way forward that carefully balances a careful reopening of public transport capacity, with public health, while allowing purposeful flexibility to re-adjust measures based on actual and evolving data from the ground,” the group said.

They, however, clarified that their proposal has many more layers and that they are still reviewing some studies.

They also underscored the need for more dialogue with other experts and stakeholders about their recommendations.

“Public policy has no quick-and-easy solutions, and addressing the transport crisis in this pandemic is no exception… We also encourage a discussion of other groups’ thoughts on health and other matters, including the overall increase of the supply of safe public transportation,” they said.

The IATF earlier approved a proposal to gradually reduced physical distancing in public transport. The adjustment took effect on Monday, Sept. 14.

Due to differences in views and growing concerns over the policy, Malacañang vowed to look into the issue. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

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