Coronavirus: Commuters fear infection in overcrowded taxis, buses and trains

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Long lines at Cape Town taxi rank, (Cebelihle Mthethwa, News24)
Long lines at Cape Town taxi rank, (Cebelihle Mthethwa, News24)

While concerned South Africans find ways to safeguard themselves from the novel coronavirus, it's not that simple for commuters.

Having to take various modes of transport to work and home, commuters find themselves a little too close for comfort to fellow passengers in usually overcrowded taxis, trains and buses.

Many feel that health is compromised because taxi ranks are always packed and overloading is commonplace.

On Monday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced that random screening would be carried out at taxi ranks and train stations to ensure that public transport services were safe for commuters.

Speaking about his dilemma, Khayelitsha resident Bongani Cirha said taxis and taxi ranks were always full since the central train line was suspended due to vandalism and MyCiTi buses no longer travelled to his neighbourhood.

'Where is the safety?'

Taxi commuter Queen Ntengemntu from Philippi said not everyone showed symptoms of the virus, so she wasn't sure who she should avoid.

"So how do they (the government) expect us to stay away from those [infected] people?" she asked. 

"The taxi [is supposed to] take 16 people but sometimes you'll find that there' s more than 24 people. Where is the safety in that?"

A Delft resident who asked not to be named, said the government's call for good hygiene would not be heeded by everyone.

He, his wife and his child travel together and he becomes worried when someone coughs or sneezes because it could put his whole family in danger, he said.

"Sometimes you get those people who don't [even] want to open the window in a taxi."

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that gatherings of 100 people and more were prohibited. He urged the public to avoid social gatherings.

Declaring the outbreak a national disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act, he said South Africa had the "knowledge, means and resources" to defeat the virus.

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