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June 3, 2020

Intra-city public transport, ride-hailing services allowed to resume in Sindh


June 3, 2020

The Sindh government has allowed the resumption of intra-city public transport and ride-hailing services in the province that have remained closed since March 24 as part of the preventive lockdown against local transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The government’s permission, however, is conditional upon the implementation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) recommended by the Sindh Transport Department for the safe operation of intra-city passenger carriers.

Addressing a news conference on Tuesday, Transport Minister Syed Awais Qadir Shah clarified that the operation of the inter-city transport service will remain suspended until further notice. Shah said that decisions to this effect were reached after a meeting with transporters earlier in the day, but the SOPs for the sector had been adopted previously, for which purpose the operators of the passenger bus service had been consulted.

He said that operators of public transport have to comply with the SOPs because their passenger vehicles will be impounded in case of non-compliance. He added that passenger vehicles found plying without the facility of masks and hand sanitisers will face action.

The minister said that the operation of public transport will be allowed only from the designated stops, while online passenger van services are allowed to operate as per their seating capacity.

He said that cars belonging to ride-hailing services are allowed to carry only two passengers, while an additional person can be carried only in an emergency. He added that air-conditioned bus services will not be allowed, while permission will not be granted for carrying passengers more than the seating capacity.

He claimed that the rest of the provinces had earlier resumed public transport in violation of the decisions of the National Coordination Committee, but in case of Sindh, the authorities concerned had taken all the transporters on board before making any decision.

He said transporters have assured the government that the SOPs will be implemented without any violation. He added that it is obligatory upon the transporters to comply with the SOPs. He thanked the associations of public transport operators for supporting the provincial government in implementing the lockdown.

The SOPs

While the Sindh Transport Department’s SOPs for inter-city transport are yet to be approved, it has issued SOPs for both intra-city and inter-city transport services.

The SOPs for inter-city transport stress cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces of buses, bus terminals and waiting areas. It asks ensuring a hygienic environment in buses, at terminals and at the starting and terminating points. Transporters are directed to observe social distancing during ticketing, boarding, travelling and alighting with a minimum of three-feet distance. “Wearing masks and hand gloves is mandatory for all passengers, drivers and conductors aboard,” state the SOPs.

Keeping minimum baggage and ensuring the availability of masks and hand sanitisers by transporters in every bus has been stressed upon. They are required to check the body temperature of every passenger as well as that of the driver and conductor before boarding the bus.

They are not to allow anyone with a cough or a fever to board the bus. “There should be a 50 per cent seating arrangement for passengers with reasonable distancing among them,” state the SOPs. Moreover, transporters are required to ensure air ventilation by keeping the windows open.

Transporters are required to use the rear door for boarding and the front door for alighting. In case of a single door bus, the passengers are to alight first and then board later. Sneezing and coughing are to be done in the elbow or tissue papers. Disinfecting spray gates are to be installed at boarding places.

Locations of parking bays of buses are supposed to be marked by the transporters, while crowd management through deployment of additional necessary staff and marking is to be ensured. The transporters are required to ensure the availability of soaps and sanitisers in public toilets and areas.

As for intra-city transport, public vehicles are to be cleaned and disinfected at the start and end of every trip. Only 50 per cent of the bus capacity and seat occupancy will be allowed with sufficient distance. The elderly and the sick will not be allowed on intra-city buses. The transporters are required to provide a cash drop box to the conductor. “The use of masks and gloves is mandatory for all passengers, drivers and staff,” state the SOPs.