Speedboat operators revert to full capacity despite COVID-19 risks

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Speedboat operators are now transporting passengers at full capacity

Speedboats transporting passengers across the Demerara River, between Vreed-en-Hoop have resumed transporting full capacity of passengers daily, eliminating any form of social distancing.

This is despite the fact that Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and Four (Demerara-Mahaica) have seen large numbers of the coronavirus cases.

This decision on Friday was met my resistance from passengers, who did not want to take the risk of contracting the disease. For precautionary reasons, three persons were required to sit in one seat. But boat captains mandated that five persons be seated together.

During the start of the pandemic in March, boats were transporting half of the total capacity, providing some form of social distancing while using public transportation. This continued for some months and after complaining of reduced income, they have moved to scrap this system. It is a decision which has not received approval from commuters.

Whilst operators were also strict about the wearing of masks, persons are now allowed to board without protective gears.

Government had taken a decision to extend the National Covid-19 Measures for the month of November and has eased the curfew hours which are now 22:30h (10:30 pm) to 04:00h (4 am). Published in the official gazette, the measures took effect from November 1, and last until November 30 – unless earlier terminated, extended or amended by notice of the Minister of Health after an assessment of the prevailing public health conditions. It states that public transportation must carry 75 per cent of its total capacity.

These emergency measures are made pursuant to paragraphs (1) and (2)(b) of the Direction by the President, given under the Public Health Ordinance, Cap 145, and published in the Gazette, Legal Supplement – B, 16th March 2020.

The Government concluded that it made a rapid assessment of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and found that it was fragmented and incapable of administering the public health, economic and social measures needed to keep the population safe. The Order noted that the current measures are extended to allow for further assessments and consultations to develop updated protocols to aid in the combatting of the COVID-19 spread.

The wearing of masks, social distancing and hygienic measures are still in effect when in public.