Gov't to MRT-3 passengers: No contact tracing yet, check yourselves for COVID symptoms for now

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) — Aside from limited transportation, commuters are now burdened with the problem of self- screening for potential coronavirus symptoms, as a government-initiated contact tracing program is not yet in place for Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3 passengers.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reminded MRT-3 passengers to simply monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and undergo self-isolation if they have had close interaction with the infected ticket sellers.

"Kung kayo ay sumakay sa MRT, kami ay nananawagan: Kung kayo ay nagkaroon ng contact sa ticket sellers, kayo na ang mag-quarantine dahil hindi na natin malalaman kung sino kayo," Roque said in his briefing on Tuesday.

[Translation: If you took the MRT, we are calling on you: If you have had contact with the ticket sellers, just undergo a self-quarantine because we would not know anymore who among you were potentially infected.]

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said in a separate interview that the DOTr is still coordinating with authorities on how to develop a contact tracing app that can accommodate thousands of passengers relying on MRT-3 as their mode of transportation.

"Ngayon, ongoing 'yung ating pakikipag-usap doon sa tinatawag na contact tracing app. Merong tinitingnan na i-a-adopt," he told CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

[Translation: Right now, we are still talking to those who can help develop a contact tracing app. We are considering adopting this system.]

According to Batan, if the plan pushes through, the.department has no choice but to rely on an app-based system due to the overwhelming number of MRT-3 passengers.

"Ang sistema sa MRT-3 ay dahil marami ang daily passengers, kailangan natin ng IT (information technology) o app-based na sistema para sa contact tracing," he said. "At iyan ay isa sa mga bagay na gusto nating maging resulta...matapos ang suspension."

[Translation: Our sytem in MRT-3 is because we have a lot of daily passengers, what we need is an IT or app-based system for contact tracing. This is one of the things we hope to achieve after this suspension.]

The MRT-3 management announced on Monday that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases decided to halt railway operations from July 7 to July 11 "following the increasing number of personnel who tested positive for COVID-19."

READ: MRT-3 halts operations starting July 7 as more employees get sick with COVID-19

Batan said the latest number of confirmed infections are now at 198, 15 of which are ticket sellers from the stations of North Avenue, Araneta Center-Cubao, GMA Kamuning, and Quezon Avenue.

The DOTr said in its advisory that ticket sellers from North Avenue and Cubao stations both have working shifts from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., those from Quezon Avenue were deployed from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and those from GMA Kamuning were working from 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.