By Rose de la Cruz I Published: August 5, 2020
For contract tracing—one of the most vital strategies to keep COVID-19 numbers down to achieve the illusive “flattening of the curve”– to succeed, a follow through on regulations issued by government to the private groups and businesses must be done.
Take for instance, the provincial bus operators abided by the requirement of the Department of Transportation to have their passengers accomplish completely a form stating their full names, residences, contact numbers, bus number they rode in, destination and person to stay with and other people they last met—all for contact tracing in case one or more of them acquire the coronavirus in the bus.
But there are sacks and sacks of these in the terminals and no one is picking them. We do not know what to do with them, said Alex Yague, president of the Provincial Bus Association of the Philippines at the Wednesday Breakfast @ Lido forum of newsman, Melo Acuna.
The provincial bus operators have stopped operating since the beginning of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or restrictive lockdown last March 16 and even with the general CQ (GCQ) for the whole month of June they were still not allowed to get into Metro Manila by the inter-agency task force on managing emerging infectious diseases (IATF) to contain the pandemic.
Commuters desiring to enter MM took a provincial bus up to its terminal and make one or two more transfers via private vans going to MM. These costs twice or thrice what they would have paid for a direct trip to MM, said Yague.
This also gave rise to the operation of colorum vans offering direct trips to MM at 4 to 5 times the cost of a direct bus ride, he added.
Yague said many provincial bus companies have laid off a lot of workers since March 15 because their revenues have been depleted by the stoppage in operation due to COVID-19.
Traditional jeepneys safer
Similarly, Dr. Gene Nisperos, professor of the UP College of Medicine, voiced his observation that the closed ventilation and canned air-condition of modern jeepneys pushed by the transportation department are more likely to spread coronavirus than the traditional open-air jeepneys, which the government has stopped operating since the lockdowns in March. Even if an asymptomatic passenger rides it, the virus would stay and be circulated by the aircon of the modern jeep whereas in traditional jeeps, this would just freely move out, he added.
Nisperos last November 2019, received death threats via text messages after criticizing the budget cuts for UPCM, which were strongly deplored by the UP Academic Employees Union- Manila Chapter and human rights alliance, KARAPATAN.
Nisperos said the current MECQ—if properly enforced—will just provide a breathing space so those in the hospitals (assuming no new cases arrive) will be properly cared for and discharged. He insisted though the MECQ is a shared responsibility of everyone by practicing health protocols on hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing of face masks/shields (in low-ceilinged and crowded places) to contain the spread of coronavirus.
In Luzon, the only provinces that have no COVID yet are Batanes and Dinagat Islands—both island provinces with strict border controls.