Passengers can now also talk while inside the trains and not be mindful of social distancing
Almost three years since the start of the mask mandate, commuters can finally rest easy and ride public transportation mask-free.
Passengers can also talk while inside the trains after the Department of Transportation on Sunday, July 23, 2023, lifted all COVID-19 protocols in public transportation.
The decision was grounded on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s July 21, 2023 announcement that lifted the state of public health emergency in the Philippines, which came three days before his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
It’s a “significant step towards normalizing public transportation and supporting economic recovery,” said Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista in a statement.
After the announcement, the DOTr lifted all public transportation protocols related to COVID-19.
What does this mean?
This means face masks are now voluntary on trains and other public rides. Likewise, physical distancing and limited capacity on rides will no longer be implemented.
Jeepneys, in particular, have already been operating more or less at full capacity even before the lifting of the state of public health emergency.
Apart from ditching the masks, passengers are also allowed to speak with fellow passengers, albeit, in hushed tones, the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) said in a Facebook Story.
In the same manner, calls inside the trains are also allowed as long as it’s done quietly so as not to disturb other passengers, LRTA added.
However, the secretary assured that sanitization in public transport vehicles would continue to avert possible health risks.
“While public safety remains a top priority, the removal of protocols aims to facilitate commuters’ convenience, contribute to the revival of the transportation industry, and help stimulate economic activity,” he said.
The lifting of the said mandate also means that all available COVID-19 vaccines will remain valid for one year to exhaust the remaining vaccine supply, according to Proclamation No. 297.
After the so-called emergency use authorization (EUA) expires, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers can now apply for product registration for them to start selling and distributing the vaccines to the public.
Banner Art Dani Sison