Public transport is a necessity for many New Zealanders - but amid the COVID-19 outbreak, commuters are becoming increasingly wary of catching the virus.
Handrails, shared seating, stop buttons and HOP card top-up stations - all provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and are used by hundreds, if not thousands, of people each day. Not to mention the close proximity of commuters during peak travel times.
Although the Ministry of Health (MoH) says New Zealanders can continue to use buses, trains and ferries without fear, Auckland Transport (AT) has announced new precautionary measures to ensure public safety on its services.
"AT is well-prepared for a possible escalation of its COVID-19 response and has installed new public hand sanitiser stations and increased the cleaning of vehicles and facilities," Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said in a statement on Tuesday.
"People should continue to follow all guidelines issued by the Government... wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes and for the time being, avoid normal greetings such as shaking hands."
Tips for staying safe while travelling on the network
AT has released etiquette guidelines for its commuters during the outbreak, which include:
- avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth
- trying to avoid close contact with people who are clearly unwell (coughing, sneezing, blowing their nose, etc)
- carrying around an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with more than 60 percent alcohol to use on the go
- coughing or sneezing by covering the mouth and nose with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into the upper sleeve or elbow
- frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and when a bathroom becomes available
- staying home when feeling unwell.
The agency is also taking proactive steps to ensure it's prepared for a potential escalation of COVID-19 in Auckland, AT CEO Shane Ellison reiterated, including:
- giving personal hand sanitisers to AT's frontline staff
- cleaning AT buses, trains and ferries on a regular basis and stepping up the cleaning of surfaces like handrails
- building 14 new public hand sanitiser stands to install at key locations across AT's transport network
- equipping all toilets across AT's transport network with hand sanitiser dispensers
- making sure information and advice from the MoH is being supplied to AT's staff, operators and contractors
- displaying MoH posters promoting good hand hygiene in AT's offices, buses, trains, ferries and other facilities
- creating a COVID-19 section of AT's website, which will be updated with the latest information.
Commuters around New Zealand are urged to follow the MoH's guidelines in order to ensure everyone can get to work, school and home safely.