Public and private travel restrictions during the Covid-19 lockdown
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has gazetted strict regulations, which, if flouted, could result in imprisonment
As SA heads into an unprecedented nationwide lockdown, the transport department has stressed how important travel restrictions will be to curb the spread of Covid-19 and clarified a few matters amid what appeared to be some confusion.
Public transport operators will have to adhere to strict regulations during the 21-day, nationwide lockdown, including limiting their passengers, sanitising their vehicles and wearing masks during trips.
While private travel will also be limited, some of these regulations, the ministry has confirmed, do not apply to private vehicles. The department has, however, stressed the need to limit travel, given its role in the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours before SA was set to go into lockdown, transport minister Fikile Mbalula gazetted detailed regulations for public transport, border crossings, as well as railway operations.
All public transport vehicles must be sanitised before picking up passengers and again after they are dropped off, with specific attention to door and window handles, arm-rests and hand rails. Vehicles need to be kept clean and tidy while operators, who will be required to wear masks, are to provide disinfection information. All owners of public transport facilities are also required to provide sanitisers or other hygiene dispensers for passengers to clean their hands. These sanitisers must contain a minimum of 60% alcohol.
While all forms of long-distance travel between provinces, metros and districts is prohibited, buses will only operate when transporting workers who perform essential services, between 5am and 10am, and again from 4pm to 8pm.
These times do not apply to private vehicles, the department said. However, lockdown restrictions — that travel is only allowed when purchasing food, medicine, seeking medical care or for those performing essential services — apply to anyone on the road.
Public transport vehicles with a load capacity of four passengers, such as most Uber vehicles, will be limited to one passenger, apart from the driver. This also applies to private vehicles, which means that a standard car will be limited to two occupants. Minibus taxis licensed to carry 10 people will be limited to carry seven, while midi-buses with a capacity to carry 22 people, will be limited to 15.
“All public transport operators should put measures in place to adhere to social-distancing to curb the spread of the virus,” the regulations state.
These strict transport regulations are aimed at curbing the spread, explained the department’s spokesperson Ayanda-Allie Paine, who pointed out that the virus arrived in SA via a form of transport. “We need to limit people’s movement as much as we can. It really seems harsh, but if you look at the role of transport ... we really can’t play around.”
Meanwhile, no passenger transport services will be allowed to cross any borders during the lockdown; however, freight movement, such as the transport of foods and fuels, will continue between SA and its neighbours.
In terms of railway operations, all commuter trains will cease operations during the lockdown, including long-distance services such as the Blue Train and Shosholoza Meyl, as well as the Gautrain and Metrorail.
For freight trains, strict hygiene and safety protocols need to be put in place while cross-border train crews may have to undergo screening tests at handover points.
Non-compliance with these regulations could result in a fine, six months imprisonment, or both.
Update: April 2 2020
This article has been updated to include amendments to the travel regulations.
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