Experts warn vs 'one-seat apart' policy on public transport, cite COVID-19 risk

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2020 12:07 PM

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MANILA— The OCTA Research Group, a team of professors analyzing COVID-19 data in the Philippines, does not favor any form of reduced physical distancing in public transport, a member said Wednesday.

Professor Guido David made the remark after government approved eased distancing through the one-seat apart policy to accommodate more commuters in a bid to resuscitate the economy.

The group earlier rejected government's plan to ease physical distancing in public vehicles from 1 meter to .75 meters, David said.

"Ang mangyayari kasi sa public transport 'pag nagkaroon ng overcrowding kahit na naka-face mask at face shield tayo, mas tataas 'yung risk ng community transmission lalo na kung may potential superspreader dun. So tumataas 'yung risk, chances na may ma-infect na ibang tao," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.

(If you have overcrowding in public transport, even if you wear face mask and face shield, the risk of community transmission will still increase especially if there's a superspreader. The risk and chances of infecting others will increase.)

"Generally hindi naman fine-favor ang pag-reduce ng social distancing although sabi nila may studies naman silang sinunod. Hindi ko pa nakita 'yung mga studies na 'yun so di ako makakapagcomment sa scientific basis nila."

(We don't favor reducing physical distancing although they said they have studies. I have not seen them so I can't comment on their scientific basis.)

The group also finds "concerning" the proposal to allow people aged 18 to 65 to go out of their homes as those aged 55 to 64 have a case fatality rate of 7 percent, David said.

The current IATF policy bars those younger than 21 and older than 60 to go out. 

"I would still caution them from going outside unnecessarily kasi mataas (because it's high)... that means 7 out of 100 ang mamamatay kapag na-infect sila (when they're infected)," he said.

"Naiintindihan namin itong campaign na ito is to stimulate economic recovery pero at the same time we still have a pandemic.
Kahit sa ibang bansa sinasabi you cannot fully recover the economy hangga't andyan pa ang pandemic."

(We understand this is to stimulate economic recovery but at the same time we still have a pandemic. Even other countries say you cannot fully make the economy fully recover while the pandemic persists.)

The country's daily COVID-19 cases could decline to 500 to 600 by the end of the month if quarantine measures remain, David added.

"And by end of November, baka mga 200-300. That is a lot more manageable kung mapapababa natin ang cases natin to that level, mas madali nang mag-reopen ng economy," he said.

"We’re on our way to recovery, although mataas ang kaso we’re getting less than 1,000 cases per day on average."

The group has also clarified with government that the latter asked them not to issue recommendations on quarantine restrictions, David said.

"Di naman kami pinapahinto magbigay ng information, 'yung recommendation lang dun sa quarantine measures, saan ire-restrict," he said.

(We weren't asked to stop giving information.)

The Philippines as of Tuesday reported 344,713 cases of COVID-19, with 293,383 recoveries and 6,372 deaths.