EXPERTS have described as dangerous and premature the Philippines’ decision to cut the social distancing minimum to 30cm on public transport, as the country saw another daily record in newly confirmed Covid-19 deaths.
Reducing gaps between passengers incrementally to a third of the one-metre minimum could backfire, experts and medical professionals warned, and prolong a first wave of infections that the Philippines has been battling since March.The new rules took effect yesterday, when the country reported 259 new confirmed deaths, a record for the second time in three days.
Total fatalities increased to 4,630, while infections have doubled in the past 35 days to 265,888, South-East Asia’s highest number.
“This will be risky, reckless and counter-intuitive, and will delay the flattening of the curve, ” Anthony Leachon, former president of the Philippine College of Physicians, told news channel ANC.
“Even if you wear a face shield and mask, reducing the distance between, it will be dangerous, ” he said, adding that one or two metres was the minimum international standard.
The transport ministry’s new rules cut the distance to 75cm yesterday, 50cm on Sept 28 and 30cm on Oct 12.
Yesterday, the health ministry urged the public to be “extra vigilant” in tight travel conditions.
Manila’s transport systems are notoriously crowded, with commutes typically involving long queues and several changes.
“We will likely see an increase in cases and our recovery will slow down if we do this now, ” said epidemiologist Antonio Dans.
The 30cm distancing plan aims to help an economy that the government sees contracting 5.5% this year, the worst shrinkage in 35 years. — Reuters
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