Transport Sector takes extra measures to guard against COVID-19

Following the community transmission from December, the cluster testing for risk groups like taxi and bus drivers were carried out and few taxi drivers and bus drivers tested positive for COVID-19.

To contain the spread of community transmission, the transport sector in the country is taking extra precautions.

According to the Officiating Director General of Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), Ugyen Norbu, passenger buses will be fitted with protective transparent partition between the driver and passengers. In addition, use of Druk Trace app and face mask will be made mandatory. However, partition in taxi will not be done due to practicality.

 “As before, use of CPMS will be reinforced. There is no issue with regard to buses but it is difficult to inspect and verify CPMS usage in taxis,” he said.

He said that there is no directive on imposing penalties for those who are not following the safety protocols.

“As you are aware the rule to impose monetary penalty to individuals who do not use face mask has never seen the daylight. Similarly, as of now, I would say that it will be near impossible to inspect cab riders unless there is new system put in place,” he said.

The main issue faced by RSTA is the shortage of manpower. Unlike many other agencies, RSTA has to provide public service like driving test, collect fines and penalties, conduct highway inspection etc. In addition, they are also providing escort service across the border for import of essential goods (food supplies, medicine, fuel etc) since March 2020. Thus, their manpower is really stretched.

He added, “In my view, Bhutan should leverage the digital technology in collecting passenger and vehicle flow data, inspection, contact tracing, risk communication, outbreak prediction, simulation etc so citizens are able to avail service promptly and efficiently. Further, this will also improve professionalism, transparency and accountability.”

Meanwhile, four regional transport offices in the country are also taking precautionary measures against COVID-19.

 Phuentsholing Regional Transport Officer (RTO) Karchung said that already Phuentsholing is in high risk area so there is no free movement. And also the taxis are allowed to go till Sorchen and if they want to cross they have to follow the modality. “Otherwise we are following the guidelines and safety protocols developed for high risk areas,” he said.

Gelephu RTO Thinley Tobgay also said that safety measures are being put in place and people are made to use mandatory face mask and use of hand sanitizers before they hop into a taxi or bus.

He added that strict monitoring is going on along the highway and checking whether the driver and passengers are following the safety protocols.

Lhendup Dorji RTO of Mongar said that they are monitoring and carrying out inspection in the morning and evening for public transport.

“We do check whether people are following the safety protocols before departure and also for passengers arriving in the dzongkhags” he said.

Samdrup Jongkhar RTO Kinley Wangchuk said that they have made a partition for driver and passengers for maintaining social distance and other than this they are following the safety measures and the monitoring is being carried out like before.

He said that since the vehicle has to ply by Indian Highway it is being escorted by Desuups.

For now, Chairman of Bhutan Taxi Association said that once the taxis are allowed to move, the taxi drivers in the country will make sure that they follow the safety protocols.

“Every taxi driver will make sure they use safety protocols and also advise the passengers to wear mask and if one can wear face shield it will help to contain the transmission,” he said.

He said that they will make sure everyone uses Druk trace app and maintain log books for those passengers who does not have access to it.

“Also those drivers going for long route can stop by where there is water and wash their hands time and again so that there will be no risk of transmission,” he said.

Public transportation and inter district movement is being allowed from Monday onwards.

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