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Opposition parties urge stricter measure on buses after eight drivers test positive

Johnny Bugeja

Opposition parties yesterday sought further clarification of health measures on public buses after eight bus drivers tested positive for Covid-19.

The GSD and Together Gibraltar called for more measures to be put in place for the safety of bus drivers and passengers.

This comes as Minister for Transport, Vijay Daryanani, told GBC the Government were “not aware of how these cases have managed to slip through”.

He said bus drivers use masks, they have been careful and the Government has been “very strict on issuing instructions while they are working”.

In addition the bus drivers are tested frequently as they fall under the frontline worker category.

But the GSD said it has “several serious concerns regarding the accuracy of the comments made by the Transport Minister”, adding that it seeks confirmation of the specific measures in place to protect bus drivers and passengers.

Meanwhile Together Gibraltar said the admission that the Government does not know why there has been a spike of Covid-19 cases among bus drivers “are of grave concern”.

In a statement, the GSD listed a number of key areas that have been of concern.

These are a lack of screens between drivers and passengers; the use of money to purchase tickets rather innovative online or contactless payments solutions; the lack of disinfection between each driver’s shifts as well as regular deep cleaning of passenger rails, stop buttons and seating; the regularity of testing of bus drivers and a lack of ventilation on buses.

Shadow spokesman for Transport, Elliott Phillips, said: "As a service which is on the front line in terms of regular interface between students, workers both cross border and local and the general population, the health and safety of all users mut be paramount in order to mitigate exposure to Covid-19 infection.”

“The Government must ensure that we have robust measures in place which mitigate infection and provide confidence to bus drivers and the public that everything that can be done is being done to protect the health of users.”

For its part, Together Gibraltar said bus drivers are “particularly exposed to the general public, and are therefore particularly susceptible to both contracting and spreading the virus”.

The party said it would like to know how often bus drivers have been tested for Covid-19 as part of the frontline sampling exercise, adding: “There have been reports from the drivers themselves that they do not believe it is nearly often enough.”

Together Gibraltar also urged the Government to install protective screens in order to prevent drivers from being exposed to the virus. 

It also said the “routine de-contamination of buses needs to be more thorough and regular”.

“The worrying reality is that for every infected bus driver, many passengers will have been exposed, including elderly citizens who are frequent users of the service,” Together Gibraltar said.

Marlene Hassan Nahon, Together Gibraltar’s leader, said: “I have received many concerned calls about the issues with the bus  service, as well as the education system, and from health workers who are very worried about non-existent procedures, asking when are we going to have a coherent strategy in order to avoid the second wave reaching our shores.”