Chandigarh, May 7:
Punjab Government has issued an advisory on maintaining the hygiene and sanitization by State Transport Undertakings (Punjab Roadways/PRTC/PUNBUS) and Private Bus operators during the transport of migrants/passengers in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
An official spokesperson of the state government said that the state government has imposed severe restrictions on free movement of people and vehicles in the larger public interest of controlling the spread/transmission of Coronavirus through the imposition of Curfew in all districts. And, Home Affairs & Justice Department has prohibited the inter-district and intra-district plying of buses. But, the Union Home Affairs Ministry has allowed the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and such other persons who had moved from their native places before the lockdown period but could not return back to their native places/workplaces and are stranded due to lockdown. It is essential that such migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons as well as the bus drivers/conductors and other Staff deployed on duty for their transportation to local railway stations as well as to their native places (if so permitted) meticulously comply with the necessary guidelines to minimise the risk of spread of COVID-19. The advisory, issued by the Health and family Welfare department, Punjab reads that Transport department is advised to ensure the approval of Home department before allowing state’s and private operators fleet to ply for any purpose.
The spokesperson said that only those buses essential for the transport of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons who had moved from their native places before the lockdown period but could not return back to their native places/workplaces and are stranded due to lock down, shall ply only to the extent allowed by the Government, i.e, till local railway stations or other state-districts. The transport authority is advised to make a comprehensive plan in a manner that only the staff/manpower essential for transportation of migrants defined above is called for duty. Further, the Staff/manpower, who is actually transporting the migrants to the allotted destination, shall be mandatorily examined medically both before and after the journey. The transport authority, in association with the local health authorities, shall carry out an awareness campaign of its Staff/manpower with regard to the symptoms of COVID-19 with an objective to assist them in self monitoring as well as to identify and report, if any passenger develops/reports any symptoms. “Not more than 50% of the seating capacity of the bus shall be allowed to be filled at any time during the journey and a minimum distance of 1 meter be ensured amongst the passengers during boarding, sitting for journey and deboarding the bus. The same can be ensured by advising the passengers to sit on the alternate side-Window/middle/Aisle on each seat”, he added.
The transport authority, the spokesperson further added, in active consultation with the district administration, shall decide on the pick-up/start point, destination, routes, timing, frequency of the buses on the basis of the number of migrants residing in the district who have expressed the willingness to return (on www.covidhelp.punjab.gov.in), seating capacity norms laid above, distance etc. The halting point, if any, during the journey shall also be clearly laid out. The travelling migrant shall be clearly informed about the start-point, reporting time to board the bus and the fare, if any, through SMS, preferably a day before the journey. Installation of thermal scanners at the entry gate of the bus-stand/ bus is mandatory to screen the staff/passengers suffering from high fever. The normal human body temperature is 97.7 to 99.5 degree Fahrenheit or 36.5 to 37.5-degree centigrade. The transport authority is advised to install the foot-operated Hand-washing Stations at the bus stands/service stations/workshops etc. To ensure that a minimum distance of 1 meter is maintained by the staff/passengers etc. while washing the hands/waiting for their turns, circles/squares shall be marked at a distance of 1 meter from each other. Markings at all crowded areas like entry gate, water coolers, and canteens/shops (if operational) etc. should be done to facilitate social distancing. Water tanks/coolers should be cleaned and maintained regularly. Temporary counters/Circles/Squares with a proper safe distance marking of at least 1 meter should be made at the boarding point of buses for regulating the social distancing amongst the passengers.
He categorically mentioned that a separate queue for Senior Citizens/elderlies above 60 years, in view of their enhanced susceptibility to the disease, for the purpose of purchase of ticket and boarding the bus should be defined. The authority should encourage ticketing of the passengers before they board the bus. The ticketing employee/conductor should wash the hands after the ticketing with soap and water and before boarding the bus. Encourage digital payment, wherever feasible. The authority should encourage its staff/manpower and further pessangers to download Punjab Government’s “COVA APP” for the correct, timely and authentic information.
Similarly, with respect to the disinfection of the Office/Bus-Stand/Bus, the spokesperson said that indoor areas including office spaces, ticket booths, waiting areas etc. should be cleaned every evening after office hours or early in the morning. If the contact surface is visibly dirty, it should be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection. Prior to cleaning, the cleaner should wear disposable rubber boots, gloves (heavy duty), and a cloth mask. Start cleaning from cleaner areas and proceed towards dirtier areas. All indoor areas such as entrance lobbies, corridors and staircases, security guard booths, office rooms, cafeteria should be mopped with a disinfectant with 1% sodium hypochlorite or equivalent disinfectants commercially available in the market. High contact surfaces such as handrails/handles and call buttons, public counters, intercom systems, equipment like telephone, printers/scanners, and other office machines should be cleaned twice daily by mopping with a linen/absorbable cloth soaked in 1% sodium hypochlorite. Frequently touched areas like table tops, chair handles, pens, diary files, keyboards, mouse, mouse pad, tea/coffee dispensing machines etc. should specially be cleaned. For metallic surfaces like door handles, security locks, keys etc. 70% alcohol can be used to wipe down surfaces, where the use of bleach is not suitable. In a office room, if someone is coughing, without following respiratory etiquettes or mask, the areas around his/her seat should be vacated and cleaned with 1% sodium hypochlorite. Carefully clean the equipment used in cleaning at the end of the cleaning process. Protective gear used during sanitation process should be discarded. In addition, all employees at the ticket booths/office should consider cleaning the work area in front of them with a disinfecting wipe prior to use and sit one seat further away from others and if possible 2 seats, he added.
Advisory reads that buses should be thoroughly disinfected using 1% sodium hypochlorite solution at the time of entering the depot. The cushion time of 1-1.5 hours for the purpose of disinfection and staggered boarding should be kept in mind before starting any journey. All the high-contact surfaces such as rails, pillars, seats, arm rests, hand holds & glasses etc. should be wiped with 70% alcohol based disinfectant before starting any route. Likewise, outer surfaces of the bus can be sprayed directly with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution using high pressure motor pump spray units. The sanitizing team should wear appropriate protective gear (masks, rubber gloves, rubber boots, goggles etc.) before starting the disinfection. Outdoor areas have less risk then indoor areas due to air currents and exposure to sunlight. These include bus stops, parking areas, sitting benches, waiting areas etc. Cleaning and disinfection efforts should be targeted to frequently touched/contaminated surfaces as already detailed above. Sanitary workers must use separate set of cleaning equipment for toilets (mops, nylon scrubber) and separate set for sink and commode. They should always wear disposable protective gloves while cleaning a toilet. All the areas of the toilet such as the sinks, commode, taps etc. should be thoroughly cleaned/scrubbed using soap and water and then wiped with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution or equivalent commercial disinfectants available in the market, said the spokesperson. For the safety of the driver, a plastic/mirror based partition between the driver seat and the passengers may be considered, he added.
Advisory also stipulated that the staff should be advised to follow strict social distancing measures and maintain a minimum distance of 1 metre amongst themselves and with passengers at all times. They shall be advised not to indulge in any handshakes or hugs to greet/see-off each other and not to roam unnecessarily in the depot space/corridors bus bays etc. The depot staff/drivers/conductors etc. should always wear a cloth mask at all times immediately from leaving the house, during the journey and till they enter back into their house. “The mask shall be worn in a manner that it snuggly covers the nose as well as the mouth. The cloth mask should be washed with soap and water daily after use”, he said, adding that wash hands with soap for at least 40 seconds, wherever and whenever the opportunity to wash the hands is available. However, the hands shall mandatorily be washed by driver/conductor before the start of journey and after reaching destination (on both forward and return
journey). Besides, alcohol-based sanitizer (minimum 70% ethyl alcohol v/v) should be mounted or kept inside the bus for frequent sanitization of the hands. The sanitizers are to be refilled/replaced frequently. Use minimum of 3 ml of the sanitizer (approximately 2 pushes of sanitizer dispenser) on dry hands for at least 30 seconds for good hygienic hand disinfection. Sanitize hands even if they appear to be apparently clean. Driver and conductor should either sanitise or wash their hands whatever is feasible and available frequently. They should mandatorily hand wash/sanitize in the manner prescribed before touching the refreshments during tea-break/lunch-break etc. and should avoid any physical contact with the passengers or any other staff besides roaming during halt/waiting times (eg. Boarding/Deboarding) as also touching the surfaces, equipments etc. They should take proper diet and sleep and avoid eating inside the vehicle.
The utensils to be used for eating should be properly cleaned with dish wash bars/liquids and water. Utensils should not be shared with anyone. The driver/conductor should not spit inside the bus or anywhere in the open and should not smoke or chew tobacco-based products such as gutka, pan masala etc. in the vehicle or during other times. They should avoid all types of addictions at all times and refrain from touching face, mouth, nose and eyes with his hands at all times. The driver/conductor should ensure that the passengers do not make a crowd/stand closely while boarding/deboarding the vehicle. A separate queue for Senior citizens/elderlies above 60 years and a preference in boarding/deboarding the bus shall be given to them. The driver should avoid any unnecessary halts during the journey and should not pick up any new/additional passenger en-route even if the vacant seats are available. The conductor, while transacting cash, should immediately sanitize his hands after any such transactions. He should also encourage the other person to sanitize hands before and after the transaction. It is advised that all the staff/manpower should undergo self-monitoring for symptoms and report in case any symptom appears. Driver and conductor suffering from high fever/cough/sneezing/
Advisory for the passengers
The Spokesperson further said that passengers are advised to religiously report at the time and pick-up point as per the schedule/SMS sent to them. They should preferably carry pocket-based Hand Sanitizer for their frequent use and not to roam unnecessarily in the depot space/corridors bus bays etc. but, wait patiently at their boarding point for their turn. Passengers should wash their hands with soap at the hand-washing stations installed by the transport authority before entering their queues for boarding the bus and are advised to buy the tickets before boarding the bus. They should adopt digital payments, if possible, to pay the fare and should wash their hands with soap or sanitize after handling the cash and ticket for at least 40 seconds and wherever and whenever the opportunity to wash the hands is available. For the purpose of sanitization, use a minimum of 3 ml of the sanitizer (approximately 2 pushes of sanitizer dispenser) on dry hands for at least 30 seconds for good hygienic hand disinfection.
He said that passengers are advised to stand in a queue maintaining a distance of 1 meter from the co-passenger (temporary counters/Circles/Square markings) at all the boarding points in the bus-stops/bus-stands. They should not crowd, while boarding or de-boarding the bus and must wear cloth mask at all times during the journey. The passengers should not spit inside the bus or anywhere in the open and smoke or chew tobacco-based products such as gutka, pan masala etc. in the bus. They should avoid all types of addictions at all times and refrain from touching face, mouth, nose and eyes with his hands at all times. In case of a cough/sneeze, the passenger should use the handkerchief to cover the face, which shall then be kept in his/her own pocket/purse in a manner that the surface of the handkerchief exposed to the cough shall not touch the other parts of the belongings directly. In case a passenger is not carrying the handkerchief, he/she should cough/sneeze into the flexed/bent elbow. In either case, the passenger should immediately sanitize/hand-wash with soap. If a passenger develops/is suffering from high fever/cough/sneezing/
In case of Air-conditioners, the advisory mentioned that air-conditioning inside the buses should not be used without the presence of any ventilating system. Exhaust fans can be installed inside the buses so as to increase air circulation in the buses. He said that for further reference, the advisory for the use of air-conditioners should be strictly followed.
The Spokesperson further said that in case a co-staff/passenger is diagnosed as COVID-19 with whom one had a contact, there is no need to panic and the same should be report to the Helpline No. 104 or State Control Room
No. 01722920074/ 08872090029, detailing the exact nature of exposure so as to assist the medical facility to undertake further necessary actions. The transport authority, in case staff/manpower is diagnosed as corona positive and such staff/manpower has come for a shift, shall immediately inform on the same helplines along with all the facts about such person and the contacts he/she might have during the shift. The transport authority shall therefore maintain a complete and proper record of all staff/manpower reporting for duty on any particular day as well as the passengers, who have travelled on any particular bus. All are encouraged to take proper diet, assimilate correct information and keep themselves aware and updated with the information at all times, and indulge in useful and productive activities during the available free time, he added.