Public transport grapples with COVID-19 plans

Buses at the terminal in George Town. - Photo: File

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Some public bus drivers are sanitising their vehicles, while others are choosing not to continue driving buses. However, the drivers have not received any official word on procedures or approaches for operating their buses during the coronavirus crisis.

Staff at the bus terminal in George Town told the Cayman Compass they were not given any materials or information to pass onto passengers or operators.

“We haven’t received any specific information about COVID-19,” said Luke Berry of the Public Transport Operators Association. “All the information that we received came from the media.”

At a press conference Thursday, Premier Alden McLaughlin addressed the situation with public transport, noting that both passengers and drivers had to “behave responsibly” when it came to seating. Passengers “[should] not crowd the buses in the way they sometimes do, so that there is some degree of distance between individuals”, he said, adding that if public transport were closed down that would “create another set of issues”.

Meanwhile, drivers at the bus depot told the Compass they had received no information from the Public Transport Unit on COVID-19.

“Out of an abundance of caution, some drivers have taken their own safety measures,” said Berry. “Some drivers have gotten Lysol sprays and others sanitising wipes to keep the bus clean. Others have chosen not to come to work at all. But everything they do is on their initiative, and not mandatory.”

Staff from the Health Services Authority met with some drivers and handed out flyers containing advice about preventative and sanitising measures.

When Compass staff visited the depot, those flyers were being displayed on the dashboards of three of the 12 buses in the area.

McLaughlin previously announced a limit of 50 people at public gatherings, and urged everyone to practise social distancing – keeping six feet apart and not touching. However, for people travelling in the close quarters of buses and taxis, social distancing might not be an option.

“Self-distancing is a difficult issue for people travelling on a public bus,” said Berry. “At best, you will only be two feet apart from someone. But, fortunately, we are not seeing the large volumes of people because so many people are either working from home or just not working. The volume has dropped. So, we aren’t seeing that many filled buses.”

The drivers said they are not sure what to do if a passenger begins to show flu-like symptoms.

The Compass reached out to the Public Transportation Unit, which responded that the questions about PTU’s COVID-19 plans and policies were “forwarded to the Ministry of Tourism”, which has oversight of the unit. No reply was received by press time.

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