Life after lockdown: Six precautions you can take while using public transport to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19
While travelling through pubic transport, knowing bus timings and routes, location of containment zones, and using online payment and passes rather than cash can reduce the chances of contracting COVID-19
After more than two months of lockdown, most Indian states have chosen to restart local public transport amenities like buses and taxis, making it possible for a lot of people to resume travelling to work and even to stranded relatives or loved ones within and outside of their own states. While metro rail services have not been resumed in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, other services are being resumed in a planned and phased manner.
How public transport can be made safe
The target of the Central Government, as well as all state governments, is to resume economic activities while maintaining every possible safety and hygiene precaution, because, unfortunately, the threat of COVID-19 has not yet subsided. In fact, with over two lakh confirmed cases till date, India is quickly climbing up the list of nations that have been worst-hit by the pandemic.
The Indian government released the action plan for all modes of transportation, based on the recommendations made by the Centre for Road Research Institute (CRRI), and this plan discussed two approaches:
- Redesign existing facilities to enable social distancing, like reducing the number of commuters on every bus or metro coach and maintaining separate gates for boarding and alighting.
- Reduce demand and enhance capacity at the same time, especially through means like pre-booking seats for buses or implementing staggered timings for offices.
While these methods are being implemented by the authorities, your role is to take responsibility for your own movements, be aware of all regulations and rules, and comply with them at every juncture. Keep the following pointers in mind no matter what happens, and you’ll not only prevent yourself from contracting COVID-19 , but also reduce the risks for others around you.
1. Stay informed
You need to know precisely which mode of transport is best for your needs — cabs, buses, metro, local trains — and this needs to depend on the distance you have to travel and the amount of exposure you want to limit yourself to. You also need to stay abreast of information regarding which public transport modes are available to you, and which — if any — containment zones it crosses or connects with partially.
2. Get the timing right
Crowding is just not an option any more. So, waiting around at a bus stand amidst a crowd is dangerous, and given the human nature, this can inevitably lead to a crowded run or rush towards an arriving automobile’s doors. This would not only increase the risk of infections but also lead to accidents. It’s best to know the precise arrival time of your transportation and get to the stand or platform right before it. On the other hand, you might also want to keep some buffer time in case you have to miss a bus or train because of overcrowding.
3. Social distance is a lifesaver
Whether you’re boarding public transport, are in it or getting off of it, make sure that you maintain at least one-metre distance from your fellow passengers. All authorities are promoting single occupancy and alternative seating to maintain social distancing, so comply with these norms.
4. Pay online
Instead of exchanging cash or change, get advance tickets or monthly passes. Online payment methods are easily available these days, so utilise them to the fullest extent to minimise the physical exchange of money — which could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
5. Use all hygiene resources
Travel smart by carrying disposable gloves, clean masks or face covers, alcohol-based hand sanitisers, etc, and use them frequently and effectively to reduce the risk of transmission. You might also want to invest in disposable sheets to sit on, and avoid touching handles, bars, windows or doors with your bare hands.
6. Don’t travel when not needed
Unnecessary travel basically means increasing your risks of exposure unnecessarily right now. Optimise your travel by getting everything you need in one go instead of making multiple trips in a day. If work from home is available to you — even for a few days in the week — then opt for it instead of taking a chance by stepping out.
For more information, read our article on Train travel: What to do and what not to do when the lockdown is lifted.
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