ISLAMABAD: Following a televised appeal by Prime Minister Imran Khan to the provinces to lift a ban on public transport vehicles, governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday decided in principle to conditionally allow the plying of such vehicles in their areas but Sindh declined the request, citing a spike in Covid-19 cases in the province.
While issuing the appeal, the prime minister acknowledged that there was no consensus on the matter among the provinces. But he said that lifting the ban would benefit the people.
He said that public transport vehicles were used mainly by the common and poor people, including labourers. Even in countries like the United States and England, where tens of thousands of people died of Covid-19, no ban had been imposed on public transport vehicles, he added.
Despite the appeal from the prime minister, the Sindh government made it clear that it was not going to lift the ban on public transport vehicles soon, as it believed that doing so could “turn Karachi and other cities in the province into Italy and Wuhan city in China” where tens of thousands contracted the new coronavirus and thousands died.
Sindh Transport Minister Syed Awais Shah categorically ruled out any possibility of lifting of the ban at a time when cases of new coronavirus were witnessing a spike in the province.
Sindh turns down PM’s appeal, citing a spike in Covid-19 cases in the province
For its part, the Punjab government announced that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had decided to conditionally lift the ban in the light of the premier’s appeal.
Consequently, provincial Law Minister Basharat Raja held a meeting with the transporters at the Transport House and informed them of the chief minister’s decision to allow public vehicles to ply in the province, provided they followed the standard operation procedures (SOPs) concerned.
Mr Raja told the transporters that a committee headed by the transport secretary had been constituted by the chief minister to review and reduce fares in consultation with the transporters. The fares needed to be reviewed because the fuel prices had recently been cut drastically.
As per the laid down SOPs, the law minister told reporters, the transporters were required to ensure that passengers would be seated on alternate seats, and not on every seat, as there should be a distance of at least three feet between them. The air-conditioning systems on the vehicles would remain shut and all the windows open.
The law minister said the transporters would be responsible for ensuring disinfection of each vehicle after each trip and availability of senitiser at each terminal. The passengers would embark on the vehicle from the front door and get off from the back door. Passengers with fever or cough would not be allowed to get on the vehicles.
Mr Raja, however, said the committee would present its recommendations on the matter to the chief minister, who would take the final decision in this regard, especially about when the ban on public transportation would be lifted.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declared that the ban on public transport vehicles would be lifted in the province from Monday, subject to implementation of the SOPs to be formulated for the purpose.
Adviser to the Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Khan Wazir said the decision was taken during a meeting of the task force on Covid-19, which was chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.
He said that divisional commissioners and functionaries of the regional transport authority would frame the SOPs required, in collaboration with the transporters. The commissioners would take the final decision on reopening of the bus and van routes in accordance with the situation in their areas.
Mr Wazir said that decisions regarding reopening of the routes that pass through different divisions would be taken by the provincial authorities. He said that petrol/fuel stations would remain open round the clock.
The adviser also said that barber shops would remain open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the morning until 4pm.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020