The policy requiring motorists even those in the same household to wear face masks in private vehicles drew opposition and criticisms from some Filipinos on social media.
Land Transportation Office Director Clarence Guinto in an interview with DZMM Teleradyo said that private and public vehicle occupants must wear the face coverings as precautionary measures against the coronavirus disease.
Violators will be fined P2,000 under reckless driving while offenders in public vehicles will be fined P5,000.
“Kung galing kayo sa isang bahay, ‘di rin nasasabi sa regulation, dapat mag-face mask pa rin. It does not distinguish kung magkasama kayo sa bahay or hindi as long as you are 2 or more,” Guinto said on Monday.
Guinto said that the agency is looking on the effects of wearing face masks in enclosed vehicles to senior citizens. He added that they can “always review” the policy.
“May exemption naman ‘pag mga emergency,” Guinto said.
The LTO official said that the public can contest the policy to the agency if they feel like it was wrongly implemented on the ground.
In another report from Top Gear Philippines, Guinto said that drivers who are alone in their vehicles are exempted from wearing face masks inside vehicles.
Vehicles as ‘private bubble’
People who are living under the same roof then questioned the need for the face mask policy.
“Requiring a family belonging to one household to wear masks inside their own private car is STUPID. The car is like an extension of the house as long as there is no stranger with them. It’s their own private bubble,” a Twitter user in the law profession said.
“Sa loob ng bahay nag-ki-kiss mga anak ko sa akin at sa daddy niya. Tapos sasakay kame sasakyan namin mag-mask kami? Ano (‘yun)?” an online user who describes herself as a mother of five kids commented in response to the news.
“Kahit na hindi naman kami nagma-mask sa bahay? What is the scientific reason for this?” journalist Barnaby Lo tweeted.
In June of last year, the Department of Transportation said that people in private and public vehicles must wear face masks “at all times.”
“In order to observe proper health and safety protocols, everyone is enjoined to wear face masks inside their vehicles, whether public or private,” DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran said in a statement.
“But, as clarified by LTO, this does not apply to individuals driving their private vehicles alone. However, if the private individual has passengers with him inside the vehicle, wearing of face masks is mandatory,” she added.
A hospital medicine specialist said that it is a “low-risk situation” if there are only people within the same household in a vehicle, provided that no one is infected with the coronavirus disease.
“If you’re by yourself in your car, or with someone in your household, that’s a pretty low-risk situation and you don’t need to wear a cloth face mask,” Dr. Aaron Hamilton said to Cleveland Clinic.
He noted that people who don’t live in the same house but are riding together need to wear face masks to prevent risks of contamination.
“You should also wear one if you’re rolling down your window to interact with someone at a drive-thru or curbside pickup location,” Hamilton said.
COVID-19 is easily transmitted through respiratory droplets and through virus-laden aerosol particles. In order to mitigate the risk of acquiring it, the public is mandated to wear face masks.