MANILA - Out of work jeepney drivers could soon be hired as contact tracers in the government's campaign against the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Palace spokesperson said Wednesday.
"We are actually considering alternative livelihoods for them. There's a suggestion that they be employed as contact tracers because we do need about 120,000 of them and its only only about 30,000 employed so far," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
The health department said the country only has some 38,000 contact tracers at present, far from the 126,000 benchmark to meet the World Health Organization's standard for the Philippines to have 1 contact tracer for every 800 people.
Transport group Piston earlier said there were 500,000 jeepney drivers and 200,000 small jeepney operators affected by the lockdown.
Roque said deploying traditional face-to-face jeepneys is “out of the question for now.”
“It’s not in the immediate horizon because it’s almost a physical impossibility to have social distancing when passengers face each other in a jeepney,” he said.
“There are new modern jeepneys being deployed where the seating arrangement is similar to buses. I understand this kind of modern jeepneys might be deployed sooner than later,” he added.
Metro Manila transitioned to a general community quarantine on June 1. Under relaxed rules to take effect in the next two weeks, train and bus augmentation units, taxis, ride-hailing cars, point-to-point buses, shuttle services and bicycles will be allowed to operate in a limited capacity.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will also allow tricycles to operate subject to the approval of local government units, while provincial buses are still barred from entering Metro Manila.
For the second phase in the public transport shift, which will run from June 22 to June 30, public utility buses, modern jeepneys and UV express vans will be allowed to operate, on the condition that people wear masks and observe social distancing.
Meanwhile, Roque urged employers to institute a 50-50 work arrangement, where 50 percent of employees work from home. He cited that in government there is also a shifting of personnel reporting to the office.
“We will never get to the point that we can provide a 100 percent transportation to what we used to have in the workplace as public transport will have to be reduced to observe social distancing," he said.