As the wave of concern over COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, covers Bloemfontein like the rest of the country, some people have started to avoid handshakes and crowded areas while others choose to stay indoors althogether. However, for many people in Bloemfontein who use public transportation, social distancing is not an option as they travel on a daily basis to make a living.
Needless to say commuters are worried for the safety of their health but have no choice but to take taxis and buses with many others putting them in close distance of a cough and sneeze.
Care-taker at a local old-age home, Mmasi Sishuba, expressed her fear for the virus, whose cases seem to grow by the day.
“We travel with all kinds of people every day and you never know where someone has come from. I feel like our lives are at risk and I’m afraid to go to work but I have to because I need the money. I wish we could be supplied with masks and sanitisers to make things easier,” said Sishuba, who commutes from Phase 10 close to Grootvlei to the southern suburbs on a daily basis.
The Coronavirus is reported to have the most impact on the elderly and people with compromised immune systems such as those living with HIV and cancer as well as pregnant women.
Domestic worker, Dimakatso Moeti, who commutes from Caleb Motshabi to Noordhoek every morning expressed her concerns.
“When you’re in a taxi people will refuse to open the windows so if the virus is around it will just stay inside. I can’t blame taxis because Corona is not something that any of us expected to happen in this country,” said the expectant mother.
Sizwe Mzwane, a logistics worker, has opted to wear a face mask while commuting as a way to minimise exposure to the potentially deadly virus. “I use public transport, so I wear this mask especially for that. When I get to work, the first thing I do is to wash my hands,” he explained.
Although the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport is working with stakeholders in the bus industry to prevent the spreading of the virus, they are yet to set measures for taxis. Department spokesperson, Hillary Mophethe, stated that they are in the process of establishing committees and structures to fight the virus in the public transport environment.
Interstate Bus Lines CEO, George Mokgothu, explained that the transport provider will take a three-pronged approach to combat the virus. This includes education, implementing cautionary measures and a business continuity plan which may consider reducing shifts.
Among the cautionary measures that will be implemented by Interstate are introducing more cleaning teams, intensifying cleaning at bus depots and providing hand sanitisers to frontline staff like drivers and cashiers.
Courant inquired about measures that stakeholders in the taxi industry will be considering in facing the potential spread of Coronavirus, however, the Bloemfontein Taxi Association’s Public Relations Officer had not replied by time of going to print.