Gov’t to keep ban on jeepneys, buses as infections top 15,000

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THE ban on jeepneys and buses will remain even after the lockdown in Metro Manil a is relaxed, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), as coronavirus infections topped 15,000.

The 17 mayors of the capital region agreed to keep the ban because physical distancing meant to contain a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is impossible inside these public vehicles, MMDA General Manager Jose Arturo S. Garcia, Jr. said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

The Department to Health reported 380 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 15,049.

The death toll rose to 904 after 18 more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Ninety-four more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 3,506, it added.

The mayors reached the decision during a Tuesday meeting where they also recommended that the metro lockdown be relaxed and for businesses to reopen starting June 1, he said.

“We know that with our jeepneys and buses, they’ll stop and go. They’ll let riders in and they’ll stop everywhere. It’s hard to monitor,” he added.

Point-to-point buses, taxis, tricycles, ride-hailing services and company shuttles will be allowed, Mr. Garcia said.

Presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque on Tuesday said an inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet secretaries was scheduled to discuss whether to relax the lockdown on Wednesday.

The government would probably ease the lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby cities starting June 1, Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año said on Tuesday as the government tries to restart the economy that a coronavirus pandemic has brought to a near standstill.

He added that there was a proposal to classify areas into zones, allowing villages to keep a stricter lockdown if needed.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic.

The lockdown in some areas has since been relaxed, while Metro Manila remains under an altered quarantine until the end of the month, where some businesses have been allowed with minimal workforce.

Meanwhile, 282,923 people have been tested — 21,585 positive and 261,338 negative results, DoH said in a report.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said they were working with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in hiring contact tracers.

“The DILG may also consider tapping our barangay health workers and social workers in support of our national response against COVID-19,” she said at an online new briefing.

Also yesterday, the Justice department, citing data from the Bureau of Corrections said 161 prisoners have been infected with the coronavirus, six of whom died. Eight prisoners have recovered.

The national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City had the highest cases with 82 and the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City had 79, it said in a statement. — Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas