Omnibuses now allowed to carry 12 passengers
Omnibuses are now allowed to carry 12 passengers, four more than previously recommended for 18-seater buses in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
And in one month’s time, the law will be changed to make 14 the maximum number of passengers a minivan is allowed to carry.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made these announcements on radio this week.
He said the decision was made at a meeting with the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) on Tuesday, May 19, in anticipation of some students’ return to school on Monday, May 25.
“…Even though the schools start at 9:30 and we staggered it so that the buses will be able to bring the children,” the prime minister said.
School will reopen for the first time since March 20, for fifth formers, Grade 6 and TVET students.
Gonsalves said it is anticipated that the fifth formers and TVET students will make most use of public transportation, as most primary schools are in communities and within walking distance for Grade 6 students.
While it is not compulsory, the prime minister said that it was agreed that persons will be encouraged to wear masks when travelling in the buses.
“We also agreed that we will do this for a month and we will make the assessment and I indicated to them (VINTAS) that I want to change the law — and they gave the approval that when this is over, that month is over, we don’t go back to 18 seats, we go to 14, so that persons can function in relative comfort and they said that persons can live with that,” Gonsalves added.
The protocol for omnibuses to carry fewer passengers than prior to the onset of COVID-19 is intended to promote social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus.
A release from the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force also noted that the recommended amounts for the 25 and 29-seater omnibuses have been increased to 18 and 21 passengers respectively.
And Superintendent Kenneth John, the head of the Traffic Department said the department will be clamping down on any sort of delinquency to ensure the safety of commuters travelling on public service vehicles and the general public.
John also noted that “protocols and guidelines as stipulated by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment (MOHE) should be followed and all public service vehicles should be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition according to the traffic regulations”.