Commuters urged to practise safe hygiene

Bus driver Brian Jacobs wears gloves to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Commuters have been advised to practise safe hygiene when they use public transport to stop the spread of Covid-19.

There has been a drastic drop in public transport commuter numbers because of measures put in place to ensure social distancing, such as people working remotely in an effort to lessen the spread of Covid-19 but many people are still required to go to work.

Taxi drivers and associations say they are doing all they can to practise good hygiene and drivers have been advised to wear masks, gloves and to provide sanitiser for passengers before they get in taxis but not many can afford or are not able to get these items because they have been sold out at stores.

Qieyaam Petersen from the Two Oceans Regional Taxi Council said they were waiting on the government to assist in this regard but have requested passengers and drivers to supply their own sanitisers, gloves and masks in the meantime. “We are waiting for our shipment of these items but in the meantime we have undertaken some measures to help stop the spread of the virus,” said Mr Petersen.

Some of these measures include crowd control, which means that a taxi that would usually transport 15 passengers will transport fewer passengers, allowing for some space and distancing. “Passengers are also required to have their hands sprayed with sanitiser before they get into the vehicles which will hopefully help as well,” said Mr Petersen.

Mr Petersen said there has been a massive 60 to 70 percent drop in passenger numbers and this will unquestionably have an effect on the drivers who depend on taxi fare to feed their families.

“This will have a massive impact on drivers and we are already feeling it. The drivers are breadwinners for their families and we will be heavily impacted. We hope we will be getting some relief from the government in this regard soon because the drivers and taxi owners’ salary system works on a daily basis, whatever they make on the day is what they go home with, depending on the taxi owner and fees paid to the guard. We have put our own systems in place to keep money in each driver and taxi owner’s pockets,” said Mr Petersen.

One of these measures is to have drivers rotate driving shifts to give everyone a chance to drive on the routes but Mr Petersen said this was not sustainable.

Retreat Taxi Association vice-chairperson Sulaiman Brenner said they were doing their best to try and stop the spread of Covid-19. “We have been on the lookout for gloves, masks and sanitisers but unfortunately all the shops are sold out. We have advised drivers to make home-made solutions with Dettol and other products to spray their vehicles just to make sure everything is clean. We’ve asked them to buy these items until we get these items but there are 106 drivers at Retreat so everyone is not able to afford this, especially now because they are not getting money as per usual. We appeal to the government to assist us in this regard,” said Mr Brenner.

Commuter Tyrone Viljoen, who still travels to his assistant mechanic job in Wynberg, said it is impossible for him to work from home.

“Unfortunately we can’t work from home so I am forced to take public transport. I try to be as safe as I can and have hand sanitiser and a face mask but I am hoping the taxis, trains and buses also do their part to help those who have no option but to go to work.

“Unfortunately trains and taxis are still overcrowded and it would be very easy for the virus to be spread. I hope it doesn’t happen because if it does a lot of people will be infected,” said Mr Viljoen.

Meanwhile the City has implemented several measures at public transport interchanges and minibus-taxi facilities.

These include signage and posters informing and educating commuters about Covid-19 and personal hygiene to avoid being infected being put up and distributed at facilities.

During this time, the City will also implement more regular deep cleansing operations at the public transport interchanges and minibus-taxi facilities.

Felicity Purchase, Mayco member for transport, said the public transport interchanges were a central point for commuters and key business hubs for informal traders.

“The City implores all taxi commuters, drivers and owners, to work with us in finding ways to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 amid the current pandemic. The risk of contact among passengers is high in minibus-taxis because of the proximity in which people sit next to each other. We ask that passengers please put their health first and try to avoid full or overcrowded taxis. Commuters should also open the windows to ensure better ventilation,” she said.

Golden Arrow buses have also put measures in place such as spraying buses at least once a day and are practising good hygiene and bus drivers were given masks and gloves.

Riana Scott, spokesperson for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), that manages Metrorail said the region had completed and submitted its preparedness assessment to limit and or prevent the spread of Covid-19 for employees and commuters.

“We are also working closely with the national, provincial and local transport and health authorities. It is anticipated that a national statement will follow on the measures to be implemented once finalised. In the interim the region has commenced with awareness campaign amongst commuters and employees,” said Ms Scott.