The spokesman for minibus and route taxi owners has advised drivers to leave commuters at the bus stop if they are not wearing a mask, even though it is not currently mandated by Government.
But already there are indications that drivers, hard-pressed to find passengers on deserted streets during the nationwide lockdown are unlikely to pass up on a fare over an absent mask.
Public relations officer of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport Mark Haynes said the decision might lead to reduced income for PSV operators but is best in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Haynes acknowledged that wearing a mask on a PSV was not mandatory, but said drivers and conductors needed to ensure their own safety and that of commuters.
In Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s last address to the nation, she revealed that research was being carried out to determine whether there were enough masks available on the island before a decision is made on whether to make the wearing of masks mandatory.
Haynes told Barbados TODAY: “It is not mandatory in law but it is highly recommended that masks be worn by the commuters as well as by the operators. What I am suggesting for them to do is that if they see a commuter and that commuter does not have a mask to leave the commuter.
“It sounds harsh but because of how dangerous COVID-19 is we want to be responsible to one and all. You can’t have one rule for one set of people and then a different rule for another, so in an effort to get $3.50 you may end up losing a number of people.”
Haynes said that just as how people wore masks when going to supermarkets or other places of business, commuters should also don masks to ride on public service vehicles.
But the chairman of the Association of Public Transport Operators Kenneth Best distanced his organisation from the rival association’s. He noted that the responsibility of wearing a mask should fall on the individual and not on PSV operators.
He said PSV operators should not be blamed if passengers chose not to wear masks.
Best said: “Until the Government does what it has to do in terms of making the wearing of masks mandatory we will have problems. But I believe that if the people of Barbados are really serious about this and they want to play their part then they must play their part.
“Don’t make it look as though it is the PSV operators’ fault because that is exactly what is going to happen. If people get on to a van without a mask it is not the PSV operators’ fault. People have to act responsibly.”
One PSV driver who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity explained that because of the limited number of commuters on the roads it was highly unlikely that PSV operators would refuse to pick up a commuter.
He said the operators had welcomed the partial reopening after four weeks of a 24-hour curfew.
He told Barbados TODAY: “The truth is that there weren’t many passengers on the road and now that some businesses have been reopened and more people are now catching the PSVs, they aren’t going to leave passengers even if they don’t have a mask.
“We are only allowed to carry 60 per cent of the passengers we are capable of carrying so nobody is going to leave out $3.50 when they can only carry eight or nine passengers at a time.” [email protected]
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