Four Buffalo City Metro buses transporting pupils and nurses are only sanitised once a week, according to some workers at the Arcadia, East London bus depot.
As detailed in the updated public transport directions under lockdown level 3, all operators transporting locally must ensure that public transport vehicles are sanitised before picking up passengers and again after dropping them off.
During an oversight visit of the bus depot in Arcadia, East London by DA councillor Sue Bentley on Tuesday morning, a bus driver said the buses were only sanitised once a week.
The bus driver, who refused to give his name, first told Bentley and DispatchLIVE that accompanied her that the buses were Covid-19 compliant and safe to use.
However, he then admitted the buses were only sanitised once a week.
But BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the buses were “cleaned every day after a trip by the municipal general workers”. He said the depot “was deep-cleaned by BCM health” and all vehicles were also disinfected.
“There are no positive cases at the depot to date, and this fact throws the whole so-called exposé out of the window,” said Ngwenya.
“It’s important for us to manage the anxiety and fears around Covid-19 and it is very disappointing to learn that there are expeditions being held to do such things. The BCM command council sits on a weekly basis and that is a genuine platform to raise any concerns for all those who have the interests of our citizens at heart,” said Ngwenya.
On July 16, transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced that buses, taxis, e-hailing vehicles, meter taxis, shuttle services, chauffeur-driven vehicles and scholar transport vehicles are permitted to carry 100% of their licensed carry capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel.
But the bus driver said 70-seater buses were operating on the basis of 50% capacity — or about 35 passengers. That said, many schoolchildren and civil servants use the service.
The municipality also has a 27-seater in its fleet, meaning that about 13 passengers can be transported at a time.
“These buses are safe because they are sanitised once a week, and all the drivers follow protocols when they load passengers. We have sanitisers and there’s social distancing among passengers,” said the driver.
A security guard at the depot entrance, who also refused to provide DispatchLIVE her name, said the buses were being cleaned four times a week, but when Bentley asked her to present the cleaning materials used at the depot, she refused and referred all inquiries to the depot management.
“We have two people coming in two times a week, and they take turns cleaning the buses, but I cannot show you the cleaning material. Only management can do that, I’m only controlling access to the building,” the guard said.
But another employee said the buses were not being sanitised.
“There is nobody to clean the buses, because after every trip the buses are supposed to be sanitised and they not being sanitised,” he said.
“You can’t just wipe a bus and think everything will be okay. The buses do school runs, and I think there should be people responsible for sanitising the buses every time they come back from a trip.”
A nurse who asked not to be named because she is not authorised to speak to the media said she knew nurses who worked at Frere Hospital who regularly used the buses.
“It’s just sad they have to risk infection trying to get to work because they don’t have cars,” said the nurse.
During the walkabout of the facility, DispatchLIVE saw a broken-down refuse collection truck still laden with bags of rubbish.
The employee said: “These trucks break down and they are parked inside the depot. The truck you saw has been there for a while now and it stinks. I’ve seen maggots falling from trucks parked inside. I don’t know why they park them inside. The smell of rubbish is unbearable in the mornings.”
Bentley said she felt the need to conduct an oversight visit to the depot since pupils were using the buses to get to and from school.
“With different people [going] in and out the buses, they need to be sanitised after every trip and we saw a dirty bus depot. I do question that if it was deep-cleaned at any stage,” Bentley said.
“ She wondered how long the refuse truck has it been there. In the past I know this has caused a rat problem in here. I think that’s alarming because this place serves the public. The buses don’t look like they’ve been sanitised. They are dirty.
“I know that first shift has just ended but there’s no sign of cleaner here or deep-cleaning equipment.”
Ngwenya said all their buses were safe “as all passengers are sanitised” and the buses were clearly marked for social distancing.
“Our staff are also supplied with PPE (personal protective equipment) and those showing any symptoms are encouraged to go for screening and testing. We have also educated and raised awareness.”
He said due to the different bus sizes, capacity differed per bus.
By Mfundo Piliso – DispatchLIVE