There are real concerns that Public Transport is overwhelmed as lock-down restrictions begin to be eased on England, with images of tube trains and buses reportedly very busy.
The real problem with the relaxation of some of the restrictions and the use of public transport, is that the effect if any, in the “R” rate – the rate of infection – will not be known for around two weeks.
In other words, if the “R” rate has increased as a result of the relaxation of the lock-down rules now, it won’t be apparent until the time that the Government are relaxing the rules still further – potentially setting up a scenario for a second peak.
The transport union, RMT said in a statement that unless the government took urgent action to enforce two meter social distancing public transport would become a “turbo charged Covid -19 breeding ground” driving a new wave of infections.
The union said its advice was in line with general government advice that two meter social distancing should be observed at all times and industry assurances that train services should run with 80% less passengers compared to normal services. See editors note below.
RMT’s General Secretary Mick Cash said; “We have a contradictory and potentially lethal approach from government which says on the one hand when we go outside our homes into open spaces two meter social distancing must be maintained at all times but then on the other hand the government is not lifting a finger to prevent the cramming of passengers into confined spaces on bus, train and tube services.
“We have seen the consequences of the governments contradictory response in the pictures of rammed out buses and tube carriages.
“The union is saying categorically that public transport is less safe if passengers cannot practice two meter social distancing. The government must take action to enforce it’s own public health policies otherwise public transport will become a turbo charged Covid -19 breeding ground driving a second spike of infections.
“With the premature relaxation of the lockdown many people feel they have no choice but to go back to work for purely economic reasons. They do not have the cushion of savings and the option of working from home. This is now clearly a class issue with a dividing line between those who have to work or provide essential services and those able to make the choice to stay at home.”
The Public Health England advice remains that; “…at all times, you should continue to observe social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home, including ensuring you are 2 metres away from anyone outside your household.”
I entirely concur with the point that the RMT are making here, in that on busy public transport services – where many are not wearing mouth coverings – that it is simply not possible to remain 2 metres away from anyone. The notion is utterly ludicrous.
It will be interesting to see if, in two weeks time, there is a noticeable increase in the “R” rate, and if there is, what reason the Government decide to attach to it.