Transport sector told to observe protocols amid Omicron threat

THE TRANSPORTATION department has ordered the sector to enforce health protocols amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections probably spurred by the highly mutated Omicron variant.

“The safety of commuters is paramount,” Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said in a statement at the weekend. “We must make sure that health protocols are strictly implemented in all public transport vehicles and in all transport facilities.”

Mr. Tugade issued the order after the government raised the coronavirus alert in Manila, the capital and nearby cities to Level 3 from Jan. 3 to 15.

Under the third alert level, intrazonal and interzonal movement will be allowed but local governments may impose reasonable restrictions.  

The Transportation chief also ordered the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and train marshals of all railway lines to enforce physical distancing in public transport vehicles and terminals.

He added that all enforcers and marshals have been ordered to enforce the use of face masks by commuters entering terminals and boarding public transport. Public transport operators should also disinfect their vehicles.

“Let’s us not be complacent,” Mr. Tugade said in Filipino. “The virus is still here, so let’s make it a habit to wear face masks especially inside public transportation. Don’t eat or talk while inside the vehicle. Observe physical distancing.”

He also urged commuters to be vigilant against violators of health protocols.

“We need everyone’s cooperation,” he said. “We cannot do this alone. Passengers, drivers and operators should help each other. Let us all be reponsible and disciplined.”

Mr. Tugade likewise asked aviation officials to revisit, in coordination with other agencies, the cap on daily passenger arrivals at main gateways.

The aviation sector should observe health protocols at all airports and coordinate with various airlines to ensure these are observed inside the cabin, he said.

“Let us continue to hold our guards up,” Mr. Tugade said. “If there is a need to reduce the cap on passenger arrivals, then let us implement it in coordination with concerned agencies.”

“Revisit the existing cap. Let us make sure that the process is thoroughly observed, and in everything we do, make sure that we ensure the protection of our fellowmen,” he added.

The Philippines will impose tighter curbs in the capital region for the next two weeks to contain a surge spurred by the highly mutated Omicron variant that is spreading globally, the presidential palace said on Friday.

Manila, the capital and nearby cities that are home to more than 13 million people, will be placed under the third of a five-scale alert system on Jan. 3 to 15.

Level 3 bans face-to-face classes, contact sports, funfairs and casinos. The government’s coronavirus task force will also cut the operating capacity for social events, tourist attractions, amusement parks, restaurant dine-in services, fitness studios and personal care services.

The coronavirus has infected 2.84 million and killed more than 51,000 people in the Philippines, which has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave