Coronavirus (Covid-19): Union Minister Nitin Gadkari Wednesday stated that public transport services are likely to resume operations soon and that the government is in the process of formulating guidelines in adherence to social distancing norms to stem the spread of Covid-19.
“Public transport is likely to resume soon… Guidelines will be there,” the Minister for Road Transport, Highways and MSME said while addressing members of Bus and Car Operators Confederation of India via video conference.
“There is a need to resume air, railways, and bus transport as people are stranded. I think it needs to be done,” Gadkari was quoted as saying by ANI.
Gadkari said the opening of transport and highways will go a long way in instilling confidence among the public, news agency PTI reported. He also cautioned towards maintaining social distance and adopting all safety measures like hand wash, sanitizing, face masks, etc while operating buses and cars.
Assuaging the concerns of the passenger transport industry, Gadkari said the government is fully aware of their problems and that it will fully support them to mitigate their issues. He further said he is in regular touch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman regarding the issue.
The government had extended the nationwide lockdown by two more weeks starting May 4, but announced considerable relaxations in green and orange zones, including the movement of private and public transport within a state.
Travel by air, rail, Metro and inter-state movement by road are among the “limited” number of activities that remain prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of the zone.
“However, movement of persons by air, rail and road is allowed for select purposes, and for purposes as permitted by MHA,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement.
While buses are not allowed to ply in orange zones, taxis and cab aggregators are permitted with one driver and one passenger. In green zones — districts which haven’t reported a fresh case of COVID-19 in 21 days — buses are allowed to ply with 50% seating capacity while private vehicle movement is allowed even for “non-essential” work. While the relaxations are not allowed in containment areas, private vehicles are permitted in red zones with two passengers besides the driver (earlier it was just one passenger in all zones) and motorcycles with just the rider.
Stranded migrant workers are allowed to undertake inter-state ‘Shramik Special’ trains arranged by the government.
Starting Thursday, India will operate 64 flights until May 13 and use three Navy ships, as part of Phase I of an evacuation plan, to bring home nearly 15,000 Indians stranded overseas. According to a schedule prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs, in coordination with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the first of the 64 flights will carry 209 passengers from Abu Dhabi to Cochin International Airport on May 7.