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Studies Say Traditional Open-Air Jeepneys Safer Vs COVID-19 Than Modernized Ones

But modernized jeepneys are now allowed back on roads.
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Only modernized jeepneys have been allowed to ply Metro Manila’s streets beginning Monday (June 22), but experts believe traditional, open-air jeepneys are actually safer against the threat of COVID-19. 

Development NGO Ibon Foundation said the ban on traditional jeepneys should be lifted even as it claimed government officials are using the coronovairus pandemic as an excuse to run iconic vehicles off the road and fast-track what it calls the “ill-conceived” jeepney modernixation program.

Ibon cited studies made by international organizations that found open-air transport may have advantages over enclosed, air-conditioned transport.

“Most coronavirus transmissions are acknowledged to occur via droplet infection, from coughing and sneezing, and partly through contaminated surfaces,” Ibon said in a media statement released Sunday. “Nonetheless, recent studies show that the number of pathogens increases considerably in enclosed spaces and that regular ventilation reduces the risk of infection. Despite physical distancing, enclosed modern jeepneys can become centers for spreading the virus compared to the natural ventilation of traditional jeepneys, said the group.” 

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Researchers from both the University of Amsterdam and the Chinese Academny of Sciences said that virus particles in cough droplets can stay in the air on enclosed spaces “especially when poorly ventilated.”

Ibon also cited the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which advises “proper ventilation in [public transport] at all times” and “the use of windows [to] increase replacement with fresh air,” as well as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that released guidelines for mass transit administrators, which include, among others, “[increasing] circulation of outdoor air as much as possible.”

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All of this makes traditional open-air jeepneys preferable to modernized jeepneys in terms of helping curb the transmission of COVID-19.

“Yet the government’s narrow-minded focus on corporate-driven jeepney modernization threatens to forego this important built-in advantage in the mass transport system,” Ibon said. “The pandemic is being used to put thousands of jeepney drivers out of work and take traditional jeepneys permanently off the road in a brutal enforced phaseout.”

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The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had initially allowed 308 modernized jeepney units to service 15 routes in Metro Manila after they complied with the requirements set by the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.

These moernized jeepneys must be equipped with a global navigation satellite system and be able to accommodate cashless fare payments.

Normal precuations must be observed by both drivers and passengers during the journey, including the wearing of face masks at all times and observing physical distancing inside the vehicle.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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