"COVID-19 has not left yet."
This was what Mayor Evelio Leonardia emphasized to the leaders of local transport groups during a virtual dialog Tuesday, April 6, in light of the sudden surge of Covid-19 cases in Bacolod City.
Leonardia, together with the city's Inter-Agency Task Force chair Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) executive director City Administrator Em Ang, Councilor Dindo Ramos, chair of the City Council committee on transportation, and other city officials, discussed the regulation of public transportation and the stricter implementation of minimum health protocols in the transport sector for their safety and that of the riding public.
According to Leonardia, these measures are not only geared toward protecting the health of public transport operators and drivers, but also to help them maintain their livelihoods amid the surge of cases.
"Cities are normally the epicenters of the virus because of the dense population. The larger the population, the greater is the chance or possibility of the virus transmission," the mayor said.
He added: "The last time we had a big figure for positive cases in a day -- which was 40 -- was way back on November 8, 2020. Since then, over the past 3 months, we were able to bring down our cases per day to only 2 to 3, or even zero. Under such situation, people might have assumed that Covid-19 is not here anymore or have forgotten that Covid hasn't left yet."
Leonardia emphasized that the situation had changed over the last two weeks where the City is seeing a new surge that has averaged more than 20 cases per day.
This development is a clear cause for alarm, the mayor added.
Leonardia also presented a report on what the City has done in its fight against Covid since the pandemic started, the status of the vaccination plans for the City, vaccine availment, vaccine rollout, vaccination education campaign, factors contributing to the surge of cases in the city, and Covid-19 surge control and containment measures, especially on how these shall affect the transport sector.
Ramos, also the chair of the Economic Stimulus Team, urged the operators and drivers to strictly comply with the regulations and health protocols.
"Let's obey the health protocols, not because we are afraid of police officers, or because the mayor orders it; we have to do it because we need to protect ourselves and our families," Ramos said.
He added: "Despite the fact that there is a risk of transmitting the virus through high mobility of people, our mayor, vice mayor, and city administrator understand the need to protect your direct livelihood and to bring food to your tables."
According to Ramos, the drivers and operators are also a big help in reminding the commuting public to always wear face masks and face shields.
Meanwhile, City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan reminded the transport group leaders of the "seven public transport commandments" of the Department of Transportation, namely: (1) wearing of face mask and face shields; (2) no talking and making phone calls while taking public transportation; (3) no eating inside public transport; (4) keeping public utility vehicles (PUV) well-ventilated; (5) frequent disinfection; (6) not allowing those who have Covid-19 symptoms inside the public transportation; and (7) observing appropriate physical distancing.
Councilor Renecito Novero, chair of the Quarantine Centers Action Team, said all of these measures are important.
"Our intention is our salvation against Covid-19 and the betterment of our good health," he said.
Novero also commended the cooperation of the drivers and operators; he said that this is a "healthy sign of our progression in the fight against Covid-19."
"Although some protocols could be inconvenient and might affect the income a bit, the ultimate objective is our safety. If we cooperate, we become beneficiaries and if we don't, we all become victims," the councilor said.
Also joining the online meeting were Councilor Cindy Rojas, chair of the Action Team on Non-OFW Returning Residents; OIC-City Health Officer Dr. Edwin Miraflor Jr., Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) director Colonel Manuel Placido, Sectoral Concerns Office head Executive Assistant Ernesto Pineda, Land Transportation Office (LTO)- Bacolod acting chief Reuben Tampos, LTO-Bacolod Licensing Department head Susan Guara, Bacolod Transportation Authority Office (BTAO) and Transportation Management Unit (TMU) head Police Major Ruel Culanag, and BCPO-City Operations Management Unit chief Lieutenant Colonel Lester Leada. (PR.)