‘Anti-poor, lacking evidence’: Cebu hit for mandated air purifiers for PUVs

August 17, 2021 - 4:18 PM
Cebu City jeepney
More than 900 traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJs) have been allowed to hit the streets of Cebu City once again in June 2021. (The Freeman, file)

Cebu‘s policy requiring requires drivers and conductors of public utility vehicles (PUVs) to wear air purifiers, was accused by the public of being anti-poor and lacking medical evidence. 

In a memorandum dated August 13, Governor Gwen Garcia ordered all drivers and conductors of PUVs to wear personal air purifiers at all times during their trip starting Monday, August 16. 

The Department of Health last year said that they are not endorsing the use of air purifiers due to a lack of evidence of efficacy. 

The health department stressed that wearing a necklace air purifier does not replace the need to observe minimum health standards such as wearing a mask, hand washing, and social distancing.

“Happy Friday the 13th, Province of Cebu! From tuob to personal air purifier. Ikaw na gyud, iyaan!” a social media user wrote on Twitter.

Last year, Garcia drew flak after she issued a memorandum encouraging officials of Cebu City to practice “tuob” in their workstations twice a day “to combat against COVID-19 pandemic,” a measure which health experts said is ineffective.

ALSO READ: ‘Tuob’ as cure or prevention vs COVID-19? Here’s what health experts are saying

“A lot of people in the terminal have been lining up every day without being taken and social distancing because the drivers of buses and other public transportation are not on this trip because you require an AIR PURIFIER? [It’s] too bad to listen to people’s frustrations because I’m tired and I’m sick. This is not a solution,” a nurse wrote in the local language on a Facebook post. 

“How anti-poor can Cebu get, pati jeep [driver pabibilhin] mo ng air purifier? With what money?” a social media user said

“But seriously, saan at paano bibili ang mga driver at konduktor ng air purifier kung halos wala na nga silang maiuwi na kita sa byahe nila? Magbibigay ba ang Cebu gov’t? Saan na namang budget kukunin? Imbis na ibigay ang pera sa mga nawalan ng work at ipa-sweldo sa HCWs [health care workers], nga-nga,” a Twitter user asked

“Personal air purifiers? For the informal sector? Is this even subsidized? This is what happens when your policymaker is arrogant and tone-deaf,” a social media user argued

“How can a regular citizen afford a P399-1845 personalized air purifier if kulang sa ‘yung sinahaod nila monthly for their family? Sana sponsored by the LGU nalang ‘yan if they want everyone to wear those AP [air purifiers],” a Twitter user said.

A Cebu-based transport group called the policy a band-aid solution

The COVID-19 Action Network Philippines, composed of independent health experts, likewise expressed its concern and argued that transport sector workers have been “struggling to make ends meet for more than a year” now due to the community quarantine.

“Personal air purifiers are an additional expense and a waste of their income. While we believe in supportive health measures, especially given the spread of the Delta variant, these policies must be data-driven and backed by science,” the group said in a statement.

There are also “less costly” ways to improve ventilation in vehicles, such as opening its windows and letting air flow in to reduce the risk of potential aerosol transmission of the virus.

“Rather than requiring costly interventions that have yet to be proven effective, we call on the Cebu local government to focus on an expedited and equitable vaccine roll-out and improved contact tracing,” the group said.

Yesterday, Cebu Province logged 5,161 active COVID-19 cases.

Eleven local government units are under modified enhanced community quarantine until August 31. 

This includes the towns of Argao, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, Minglanilla, Oslob, Samboan, and Sibonga and the cities of Talisay, Naga, and Carcar. — with reports from Jeline Malasig