Lockdown transport concerns

An unusually quiet Park Road, Rondebosch next to the Rondebosch common.

Some Groote Schuur Hospital nurses were left without public transport during lockdown, and the hospital says it’s asked government to make sure essential workers don’t have this problem in future.

A picture on the Heroes of Groote Schuur Facebook page showed the stranded nurses.

Comments on the post called for the Department of Public Works and Transport and the hospital to make sure essential workers had transport.

In a press statement, the department said it had had many reports of essential workers unable to get to work since the start of the lockdown and it was assessing the problem.

Under lockdown, all public-transport operators can only work from 5am to 9am and from 4pm to 8pm, daily. Minibus taxis can only carry eight passengers instead of the usual 16.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula relaxed the restrictions for this week (Monday March 30 to Friday April 3) so pensioners could get to pay-points.

Department spokeswoman Marion de Vries said: “It goes without saying that it is critically important for essential-services workers to be able to get to work at the time they are needed. This is especially important in the health-care sector, who are at the front lines of the fight against Covid-19.

“At this time, we implore the minibus-taxi industry to continue transporting essential workers. We understand and are sympathetic to the challenges that the capacity restrictions impose on the industry, and would welcome immediate dialogue to develop a way forward.”

Hospital spokesman Alaric Jacobs said government vehicles had been used in some cases to help staff get to work. Their leaving times were also being staggered.

“Facilities should put forward their issues and requests to management,” he said, adding that unresolved problems would be escalated to the Department of Transport.

“The department is doing all possible to assist staff in this time.”

Reacting to the Facebook post, Rose-Marie Faustino de Sousa said staff were putting their lives at risk and the issue needed urgent attention.

Sally-Anne Yoxall Selkirk said: “These

#heroes need to be treated like VIPs. They are working such long hours while the rest of us are just sitting it out at home! The Jammie buses from UCT would be perfect.”

Charne Marcus added: “It should have never gotten to the point where something needed to be said on social media to grab your attention. These are not only nurses, but daughters, nieces, aunties, sisters, wives and mothers who are willingly risking their lives in service of others.”

All essential-service employers can email specific details about their transport problems to the department at HOD.TransportPublicWorks@westerncape.gov.za including the number of people needing transport as well as when and where.

Meanwhile, many southern-suburbs streets were quiet on day one of the lockdown.

The joggers and dog walkers were gone from Park Road, alongside the Rondebosch Common. There was strict social distancing outside Fountain Centre Pick * Pay in Main Road with shoppers queuing more than a metre apart.

Mowbray Main Road, normally full of buses and taxis, was quiet, while in Victoria Road, Woodstock, a few cars were parked outside the police station. Visitors to the station had their hands disinfected, and the police were monitoring the area.

In Main Road, Claremont, close to Cavendish Square, the street was empty and on the corner of Kildare and Main streets, Newlands, restaurants and boutiques were deserted.

By the time this edition went to print, South Africa had 1 353 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 348 in the Western Cape of which 104 were in the southern suburbs. The country had recorded five Covid-19 deaths.