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MRT-3 may cut operations after COVID-19 outbreak among staff

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MRT 3

THE government may cut the capacity of the Metro Rail Transit System Line 3 (MRT-3) after a coronavirus outbreak among its depot staff, according to the Department of Transportation.

Infections among staff members at the rail’s North Avenue depot in Quezon City have risen to 127, Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John R. Batan said at an online news briefing on Thursday.

He said 124 of those who had tested positive for the virus were employees of MRT-3’s maintenance providers Sumitomo Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, Ltd. and TES Philippines, Inc.

“This coming Monday, we might cut the number of operating trains because a number of our maintenance personnel are on quarantine,” Mr. Batan said in Filipino.

MRT-3 has carried 67,821 passengers at its reduced capacity of 13% or 153 passengers per train, down from 1,182 passengers per train before the pandemic, the Transportation department said.

Mr. Batan said additional measures would be taken during MRT-3’s reduced operations, including requiring full personal protective equipment for stations and depot personnel.

The movement of depot workers would also be limited, there would be increased disinfection activities and heightened screening for coronavirus symptoms, he said.

The MRT-3 tests started after a worker of Sumitomo tested positive during the first batch of testing on June 11. The patient’s last day at the depot was June 8.

Rail management said the affected workers had not been in direct contact with station workers and passengers.

The rail system runs 12 to 15 train sets since the lockdown in Metro Manila was eased to a general community quarantine this month.

The Transportation department earlier said it would boost its bus augmentation to make up for the MRT-3’s reduced capacity.

Meanwhile, the National Irrigation Administration central office in Quezon City was locked down after three employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus, it said in a statement.

Work-from-home arrangements would be in place from July 1 to 7 except for essential workers who still have to report to work, it said. The central office would also enforce a skeletal workforce from July 8 to 14, it added.

The agency said the three employees who tested positive for the virus had not reported to work since last month. It said it had followed protocols including rapid test for all its workers.

The first batch of workers had tested negative for the virus, it said. A number of workers had also tested positive and would be tested further, it added.

The agency said it had disinfected its vehicles and buildings and installed protective coverings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Employees had been given face shields, face masks, hygiene kits and multivitamins, while every office was given a germicidal UV light.

Ricardo R. Visaya, the agency’s administrator, urged all employees to observe precautions to minimize the outbreak. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave





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