Talks underway to address overcrowding on public buses

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

The government said it will be revisiting a decision to allow public buses to operate at full capacity, due to a steady increase in coronavirus cases over the past few days.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas revealed on Thursday that talks are being held with the General Manager of the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board (ABTB) and members of the Antigua and Barbuda Bus Association to discuss possible incentives for drivers to cushion the financial impact that will arise when they operate at limited capacity.

The reduction of taxes on fuel is one of the possible incentives that is currently on the table. The matter was discussed at length during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

“We would have discussed a return to a modality where we wanted to give the bus operators some type of concession because we will asking them to place restrictions on the number of people they could carry, and we are certainly going to have to provide some concessions,” Nicholas said.

He said further dialogue will be held until a final agreement is reached between all parties.

Last March, bus operators were asked to limit the number of passengers they carry in order to implement the physical distancing protocol as health authorities worked to contain the spread of Covid-19 locally.

However, by late June, the drivers received communication from the Central Board of Health (CBH) informing them they could resume normal practices once passengers wear face masks. This information was also later published in the official Gazette.

This did not go down well with Chief Health Inspector Sharon Martin who has been appealing for months for the government to rescind that decision. She also told Observer at the time that she was not privy to the directive.

The latest information received from the Ministry of Health reveals that Antigua and Barbuda currently has 184 laboratory confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus, of which 22 are active.

The country has also officially recorded six deaths.

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