COVID caution gone with the wind?
KURNOOL / ANANTAPUR
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is fast spreading and the number of positive cases has jumped from a mere 10,000 all over India last weekend to 1.10 lakh on Thursday, but there seems to be no special focus on COVID-19-appropriate behaviour on the APSRTC buses or in the bus stations here.
Occupancy on RTC buses has been on an average around 70% in Anantapur district with the RTC buses making 4,460 trips a day carrying 2.91 lakh people within and outside the State. “We have not been instructed to keep the occupancy at 50% on all 864 services as the government has allowed 100% after the second wave,” say Kurnool and Anantapur regional managers T. Venkataramam and Sumanth R. Adoni.
The only saving grace is there are no takers for the Sankranti specials in Anantapur and Kurnool regions as the festivities are not celebrated on the same scale as in the coastal districts. The lack of full occupancy is leading to some empty seats automatically getting created on the RTC buses. “We are educating our staff and passengers on wearing masks and use of sanitisers, but enforcement is not stringent due to lack of any specific order,” says Mr. Sumanth.
Many passengers do not wear masks or drop them down to the chin. In the same way they go to the crowded eateries at bus stations. Use of sanitiser has become rare, says K. Venkata Swamy, the conductor of a bus heading for Kalyandurg from Anantapur.
The optimum level to trigger any new service is 70% occupancy or demand in special services, otherwise they will be either cancelled or rescheduled, says Mr. Sumanth.
Anantapur has 16 dedicated services to Hyderabad, 15 to Vijayawada and 67 to Bengaluru and the region is unable to find passengers to run all these services, including a couple of Indra (AC seater) buses with full occupancy.
“We used to have high demand from IT employees in Hyderabad and Bengaluru during Sankranti, but the majority of them are now working from home. Hence, though we opened the bookings three days ago, there are no takers for the special services,” says Mr. Venkataramam.