COMMUTERS must wear face shields and masks starting Aug. 15 as protection against the coronavirus, the Transportation department said on Wednesday, as infections soared to almost 116,000.
“The initiative aims to further reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus disease 2019 in public transport facilities,” the agency said in a statement, noting that face shields and masks cut exposure to respiratory droplets.
The government order covers all public transportation sectors nationwide including air, rail, road and sea.
The Department of Health reported 3,462 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 115,980.
The death toll rose to 2,123 after nine more patients died, while recoveries increased by 222 to 66,270, it said in a bulletin.
Of the new cases, 2,434 were from Metro Manila, 105 were from Laguna, 101 were from Rizal, 73 were from Cavite and 62 were from Cebu.
There were 47,587 active cases, 91% of which were mild, 7.3% did not show symptoms and less 1% each were severe, and critical, the agency said.
Four of the new patients who died came from Central Visayas, four from Cebu and one from the Davao region.
More than 1.5 million people have been tested for the virus, DoH said.
The Asian Development Bank on July 24 said public transport has played a central role in the spread of the virus.
But the government can also promote a “more sustainable transport mode balance” by making sure public vehicles are clean, providing quality travel alternatives and encouraging walking and cycling to enhance overall health and well-being, ADB said.
Public transport in Metro Manila and other parts of the country resumed in June when the government eased quarantine restrictions to revive the economy.
But infections topped 100,000 on Aug. 2, prompting the government to put back Manila and nearby cities and provinces under a strict lockdown.
Health workers had also warned that the nation would lose its battle against the coronavirus if President Rodrigo R. Duterte failed to impose the strict quarantine.
The Transportation department said other restrictions aside from wearing face shields and masks remained in effect.
“These include strict enforcement of social distancing and handwashing or hand sanitizing,” it said. “Talking and using mobile phones are likewise discouraged inside all public transportation.”
People should not treat the added restrictions as an unnecessary cost or hassle,” Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said in the statement.
“No amount of protection is too much when it comes to health and safety, especially that we are battling an invisible enemy,” he said. “What we are addressing is not a transport issue but rather a health issue.”
Public transportation was suspended in Metro Manila and 4 nearby provinces under a modified enhanced community quarantine — the second strictest level lockdown level until Aug. 18.
Meanwhile, the presidential palace said the government would distribute modules on how to create face shields.
It would tap the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in helping the public make the shields themselves, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Laexei B. Nograles said at an online news briefing. The instructions will be made available online, he added.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week said he would give out free face masks to the people. — Arjay L. Balinbin, Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez