President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his September 7 Talk to the People Address approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), contained in its Resolution No. 69-A, placing Lanao del Sur and Bacolod City under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from September 8 until September 30, 2020.
Also approved by the members of the IATF, in its Resolution No. 69, are the requests of Region VI, Iligan, and Lanao del Sur to suspend the inbound travel of locally stranded individuals.
The IATF likewise adopted the Interim Omnibus Guidelines on Surveillance, Case Finding, Contact Tracing, Quarantine or Isolation, and Testing for COVID-19. Part of its general principles is proper clinical assessment, which is anchored on two main factors, namely, symptoms and exposure, that will serve as the basis for quarantine, isolation, testing, discharge, travel and return-to-work decisions.
The availability of test, best time to use the test, turn-around-time of test results and test specificity and sensitivity are the factors to be considered in determining the right test. The RT-PCR Test, however, still remains the gold standard for confirmatory testing.
Further, the members of the IATF allowed the use of the antigen test as a substitute for RT-PCR when it is used as a pre-boarding requirement for asymptomatic domestic tourists before departure and travel to tourist destinations or as a requirement upon entry at the place of destination if in accordance with the protocols of the local government unit.
Also adopted in IATF Resolution No. 69 are the recommendations of the Economic Development Cluster to provide safe, responsive and inclusive public transportation services during this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
Government agencies, large corporations and firms registered in economic zones will be required to provide shuttle services for their employees.
Companies which are not financially capable to sustain such provision, on the other hand, may adopt alternative arrangements, such as cost-sharing, partial vouchers for the use of Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) to facilitate the transportation needs of their employees.
Service contracting of public utility vehicles (PUVs) will also be implemented to subsidize public transport operations, incentivize PUV operators to return and serve commuters, restore livelihoods of displaced transport workers, among others.
There will likewise be an automated fare collection system (AFCS) for all PUVs to promote cashless payments and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
To reduce commuters’ time inside PUVs and in queues, dedicated lanes for PUVs will be set up in major routes, as well as putting more PUV stops and stations.
Similarly, protected bicycle lanes and racks will be set up, together with wider walkways, to make cycling and walking safe, healthy and comfortable for the public.
The Department of Transportation, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Labor and Employment, and other concerned agencies of the government have been directed to issue the guidelines to implement these public transportation recommendations. ###