Fri | Aug 7, 2020

‘Only four people in the big ol’ bus’ - St Thomas operators bemoan big drop in passengers

Published:Monday | March 23, 2020 | 12:22 AMShanna-Kaye Monteith/Gleaner Writer

Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic have been negatively affecting the operations of public transportation in St Thomas as the parish has been recording a significant decrease in passengers travelling into Kingston.

The easterly parish was initially named among five others where, according to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, some 200 to 300 persons had potentially come in contact with patients afflicted by the virus.

The other parishes were Kingston, St Andrew, Clarendon, St James, and St Ann. However, the span of the contact-tracing investigations has spread to all parishes.

In a bid to prevent community spread, the Government announced a two-week lockdown of communities in Seven Miles and Eight Miles, Bull Bay, bordering St Andrew and St Thomas.

Speaking with The Gleaner, a St Thomas bus operator who goes by the name ‘Cash Money’ and plies the Yallahs to downtown Kingston route said that since news of the virus’ outbreak and quarantined communities through which buses have to pass, the number of daily commuters has lessened.

“Nothing naw gwaan fi we. Nobody not going anywhere. Right now, mi a go Town, and a only four people in the big ol’ bus,” he said, noting that the bus regularly carries up to 35 people per trip.

He shared that though the situation of the quarantined communities does not directly impact his operation, St Thomas residents have been panicking and, as such, have been staying in.

According to him, “Bus a run, enuh, but nobody just naw travel. About quarter of the man dem withdraw dem service and a say nothing naw gwaan pon the road, suh dem a park and stay home, and mi nuh wrong dem. Today a the last me a run, and mi hear other man say it. It just nuh mek sense we put the bus dem pon road and a run up and down empty whole day and still a waste money on gas and time. Mi a tek two weeks’ leave after today, too, ‘cause we nuh have nobody fi carry. The whole place mash up.”

Amid the trepidation among his constituents, Member of Parliament for Western St Thomas James Robertson told The Gleaner that his main focus for the past few weeks has been the shut-ins and elderly in his division.

“I don’t consider anything happening right now as a panic reaction. This is, indeed, a serious matter; however, I believe my focus is different. Thousands of people have underlying conditions, and that makes them more vulnerable to the virus and its effects …, so we have to pay attention to them. We have already been doing what we need to do by visiting them and taking note, and now, we have a list of all the shut-ins, where they are, and what conditions they have. We aren’t abandoning them, and that is my focus right now,” he said.