Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that taxis undertaking local trips can operate 100% capacity, provided that Covid-19 safety and sanitisation measures are followed and all windows are kept slightly ajar, South Africans who regularly use public transport found themselves asking just how these declarations would be enforced.
On the point of the windows, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, announced on Thursday that all public transport vehicles windows must be kept 5cm open on both sides and must be fitted with ‘window jammers’ or blockers in order to keep the windows open at all times during operating hours.
The minister gave an unclear answer about just who will be responsible for footing the bill for these installations. However, he did allude to the fact that the government would, in part, assist taxi operators with financing this.
It remains unclear how government will ensure that operators comply with this requirement.
Additional measures that have been implemented to curb the spread of the virus include sanitisation protocols which dictate that all operators must ensure that public transport vehicles are sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers.
Operators must also ensure that all public transport vehicle doors, window handles, armrests and hand-rails are sanitised after every load.
The minister further urged operators and their employees to encourage passengers to sanitise their hands after they enter the vehicle and after exiting off the vehicle.
Marshals and security officers who interact with members of the public in a public transport facility are obligated to wear a cloth face mask or item that covers the nose and mouth, as well as a face shield. Passengers must also cover their nose and mouth.
Despite public transport having the option to operate at full capacity, operators have to put measures in place to adhere to physical distancing measures in order to curb the spread of the virus.
Operators will now no longer need a permit for their intra-provincial (within the province) travel as well as travel to metropolitan areas and districts.
The same rules regarding capacity and permits now also apply to bus, taxi and e-hailing, metered taxis, shuttle services and chauffeur driven vehicles, as well as scholar transport vehicles.
Commuter rail is permitted to carry 70% of licensed carry capacity.
Long Distance Travel
“Long-distance travel is permitted for a person permitted to travel between provinces in terms of Alert Level 3. Permits, as prescribed in the Level 3 Regulations, remain a compulsory requirement,” said the minister.
Mbalula reminded citizens that law enforcement authorities have a duty to enforce compliance with the gazetted regulations.
“This is a necessary evil whose sole purpose is to curb the spread of the virus across provincial epicentres. Our commitment to preserving human life cannot be sacrificed for expediency.”
Unlike taxis undertaking local trips, mini and midibus taxi vehicles are still not allowed to carry more than 70% of their maximum licensed passenger-carrying capacity for long-distance, intra-provincial travel and permitted inter-provincial travel.
To this end, the department has announced that long-distance travel refers to any trip that is 200 km or longer.
“Long-distance bus services are permitted to carry a maximum of 70% of their permissible passenger-carrying capacity for intra-provincial and permitted inter-provincial travel. Long-distance rail operations and travel remains prohibited.”