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Few provinces resume passenger coaches despite eased restrictions

Update: April, 20/2020 - 16:24

 

Coaches park at Cao Bằng Station as the province's authority decided not to resume passenger coaches until April 24. — Photo  kinhtedothi.vn

 HÀ NỘI — From April 17, inter-provincial passenger coaches can travel between 35 provinces at low risk of COVID-19 infection, but so far, few coach operators have resumed operations.

Social distancing measures were first implemented across Việt Nam for the first half of this month and then, extended for 12 localities at high risk of COVID-19 infections until April 22.

The localities classified as high risk are Hà Nội, HCM City and Đà Nẵng, Lào Cai, Quảng Ninh, Bắc Ninh, Ninh Bình (Trường Yên), Quảng Nam, Bình Thuận, Khánh Hòa, Tây Ninh and Hà Tĩnh. 

Fifteen localities at medium risk are Bình Dương, Cần Thơ, Đồng Nai, Hà Nam, Hải Phòng, Kiên Giang, Nam Định, Nghệ An, Thái Nguyên, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Sóc Trăng, Lạng Sơn, An Giang, Bình Phước and Đồng Tháp.

Other provinces are in the low risk group.

The risk classification is based on density of traffic, population, factories, industrial parks, having borders or not, the number of people going through borders or places where foreigners used to stay, and pandemic response capacity of local authorities.

As soon as the social distancing measures were halted in localities with low risk of infection, the Directorate for Roads of Việt Nam last Friday issued guidance on resuming passenger coaches in such provinces. Accordingly, inter-provincial passenger coaches could travel between 35 provinces of the low-risk group.

To be eligible to run on roads, the coaches must not fill more than half of available seats and the total number of passengers on each trip must not be more than 20. Passengers are required to not sit too close to each other. All people on the coaches must wear face masks, clean their hands with disinfectant gel and declare their health status before boarding.

Director of the directorate Nguyễn Văn Huyện said that local authorities in low-risk provinces were empowered to decide to resume or continue suspending the operations of passenger coaches.

As coaches were not allowed to travel through provinces at high and medium risk of COVID-19 infections, the coaches had to take longer routes, Huyện said, adding that they must accept the inconvenience, giving priority to disease prevention and control.

Chairman of Cao Bằng Province People’s Committee Hoàng Xuân Ánh told Kinh tế & Đô thị (Urban and Economic Affairs) newspaper that the province would still suspend passenger coaches despite it having a low risk of infection.

“Cao Bằng neighbours Lạng Sơn, Hà Giang and Thái Nguyên – three provinces at medium risk of COVID-19 infection. We can travel to Bắc Kạn – a province in the same low risk group, but in fact, we don’t have any regular passenger coaches running to Bắc Kạn,” Ánh said.

“Cao Bằng plans to stop operating passenger coaches until April 24,” he said, adding that resuming operation at this time still poses a high risk, especially when coaches picked up passengers during the journey.

In addition, coach operators were asked to reduce trip frequency by half and only fill half of seats, which increases inefficiency, he said.

Other provinces like Sơn La, Hải Dương and Điện Biện will also continue suspending passenger coaches during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the northern province of Hòa Bình started resuming the coaches, head of the province’s Transport Department Bùi Đức Hậu said.

He said local authorities and coach operators changed the coach routes so that their coaches would not cross localities at high/medium risk of infection.

Hậu said that buses on Hòa Bình-Hà Nội and Hòa Bình-Hà Nam routes were suspended while only half of local taxis were allowed to run.

“The province set up checkpoints to stop coaches entering high/medium-risk provinces,” he said, calling for operators from other provinces to tighten inspections and stop coaches from entering restricted areas. — VNS

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