Fikile take the wheel: what you can and can’t do on the road

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Fikile take the wheel: what you can and can’t do on the road

From hygiene to passengers, these are the lockdown rules for public transport and private motorists

Pieter van der Merwe
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has gazetted detailed regulations for public transport, border crossings, and railway operations.
Rolling action Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has gazetted detailed regulations for public transport, border crossings, and railway operations.
Image: File

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 apparent confusion. 

Public transport operators will have to adhere to strict regulations during the 21-day 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, and railway operations.

Hygiene

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 handrails. 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 9am, 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 buying food, medicine, seeking medical care or for those performing essential services – apply to anyone on the road.

Load capacity

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 eight people will be limited to a maximum of three. 

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.
Ayanda-Allie Paine, transport department

“All public transport operators should put measures in place to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of the virus,” the regulations state.

Private cars

Only two people will be allowed in a private car during the coronavirus lockdown. When asked how many people can be in a private car, the transport department said simply: “Two: driver and the passenger.”

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.

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