Traffic police have been conducting stops of minibuses to check for proof that drivers and their conductors have either taken a COVID-19 vaccine or have had a PCR test.
This stepped up activity which SEARCHLIGHT understands began last week is in keeping with provisions under S.R.&O No. 18 of 2021 Public Health (Covid-19) (Gathering) Rules, 2021 published on June 17.
Head of the Traffic Department Superintendent Kenneth John said they began checks last year, when the Public Health (COVID-19) Amendment Rules were first published following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and his officers have been doing a commendable job, when one takes into consideration the resources at their disposal.
Additionally the Public Health (Covid-19) (Amendment No.3) Rules 2021also buttress the actions of the police officers.
According to Paragraph 2 subsection 2 of the Amended Rules, “Both the driver and conductor of a public service vehicle plying for hire are required to have a valid negative result of a Covid-19 test issued by a health officer.”
Subsection (3) further states: “The driver or conductor of a public service vehicle plying for hire shall – (a) have the vaccination card or valid negative result of the covid-I9 test in his possession; and (b) on being so requested by a police officer in uniform, produce the vaccination card or valid negative result of the Covid-19 test for examination by the police officer.”
According to Subsections: (4), “A driver or conductor who contravenes this rule commits an offence. (5) A person commits an offence under sub-rule (3) if he fails to produce the vaccination card or valid negative result of covid-19 test at the time its production is requested under sub-rule (3). (6) A negative result of a covid-19 test is valid for a period of fourteen days from the date of the Covid-l9 test.”
Superintendent John said bus operators who fail to comply with the Public Health (Covid-19) Rules, are issued a ticket, “and we have issued plenty of tickets. Every day we issue many tickets.”
In cases where tickets are not paid, the drivers are taken to court.
A number of bus operators have complained of being harassed and one of them told SEARCHLIGHT that this is being done at a time when “We are struggling to make enough money to pay our bills.”
At the Little Tokyo bus terminal, persons had mixed views about the stepped up checks that are being carried out. One woman who had just alighted from a bus serving the Kingstown/Glen route felt it was time the police dealt with the bus operators.
Another passenger said that if the government wants to make money, it needs to find another way to do so instead of harassing the drivers.
Some passengers pointed out that many bus drivers and conductors either do not wear a mask, or do not wear it properly and that many passengers are allowed to board buses without being told to put on their mask or wear it properly.
Another passenger felt that a driver or conductor who was not vaccinated or had an up-to-date PCR test should be taken off the road and remain off the road until they comply.
SEARCHLIGHT has learnt that more than 90 percent of bus drivers and conductors may not have taken a vaccine nor had a PCR test done.