(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will strictly enforce health protocols onboard trains as well as in the various rail facilities such as stations and depots.

This, after the National Capital Region (NCR) was placed under stricter Alert Level 3 status amid the rise in Covid-19 cases.

DOTr Secretary Art Tugade said the enforcement of strict health measures to mitigate the spread of the virus will continue to be in place, even more as the present 70 percent passenger capacity in all rail lines will be maintained.

“As recommended by our railways sector, all rail lines will maintain the present 70 percent passenger capacity under the Alert Level 3 status, provided that strict health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 will be enforced. This is to avoid the ‘bottlenecking’ or crowding of passengers at stations, which may increase the risk of virus transmission,” Tugade said in a news release on Sunday.

Tugade said any adjustments or changes in the passenger capacity of rail lines, as well as in other modes of public transportation, will be subject to the guidance of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

Random antigen testing

DOTr Undersecretary for Railways TJ Batan said the random antigen testing will help the DOTr gauge the level of Covid-19 presence in the rail lines.

“The random antigen testing of consenting and volunteering passengers is intended to guide us in the adoption of any further needed measures. Passengers who volunteer to be tested will be permitted to proceed with their trip after testing, and will be informed of their test results by text message,” Batan said.

Aside from the random antigen testing of passengers, the use of train marshals will be optimized to enforce health protocols inside trains and in stations.

“Deployed train marshals will make sure that all passengers will be wearing face masks, and will not talk, eat or make use of mobile phones while inside trains. In addition, the deployed train marshals will also enforce the physical distancing rule inside trains, where applicable, considering the current passenger capacity. However, physical distancing will be strictly enforced in station platforms and in station premises,” Batan added.

Tugade also ordered the regular disinfection of trains, platforms, stations and depots, saying contact tracing measures should be continued.

Meanwhile, to ensure the safety of all rail facilities, the DOTr has required all rail personnel to undergo antigen testing, pursuant to prevailing protocols of the Department of Health.

Physical reporting in offices of rail lines personnel will be limited to 60 percent, further to Alert Level 3 guidelines, which prescribe at least 30 percent.

The DOTr Rail Sector will also be coordinating with its contractors and consultants on similar enhanced measures to be implemented for constructions workers and other personnel deployed at its various rail projects.

Tugade also directed the rail sector to verify the vaccination and booster status of all rail personnel and that booster shots be given to rail personnel to increase operational resilience. (PR)