Screening facilities for coronavirus at bus and taxi ranks

Commuters wait to board a taxi in Soweto yesterday. /Siphiwe Sibeko / REUTERS
Commuters wait to board a taxi in Soweto yesterday. /Siphiwe Sibeko / REUTERS

High-density public transport spaces such as taxi and bus ranks will soon be equipped with screening facilities to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Although there have been no cases detected from local public transport, deputy health minister Joe Phaahla said that the government is working on a plan to have screening facilities in place.

Areas with large number of commuters such as the Noord Taxi Rank and Park Station in central Johannesburg have been identified as the starting point for the screening blitz. Instead of waiting for people to present themselves with symptoms in hospitals, the health officials would soon set up tents at the ranks and train stations where they would ask commuters to volunteer for screening.

Should they notice a large number of people with high fever, they would then start taking swabs for testing as well as people's details should the tests come back positive.

"Scientifically at this stage, we also don't have evidence [that coronavirus has reached the townships]," Phaahla said.

"That's why we're talking now at resourcing ... to descend on Park Station and invite people there to say, 'please, come and be checked'."

He said that these were some of the measures they would be taking in tackling the global pandemic that has resulted in the activation of a state of national disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Phaahla said should someone who travels by taxi test positive, it would be difficult to track down the people they may have been in contact with, especially for short distance travels and in the trains.

"This is what is a puzzle for us. What may be of help is that generally there is a taxi to Diepkloof and they know each other and queues are probably daily. It's not very foolproof because we don't know when did you start being infected," he said.

"The nearest we can take is the day we took the specimen, if all of you come from Diepkloof, you will probably remember 80% of the people who were with you. The problem would also be in the trains, what about the full coaches? So those are things on which we will never get 100%."

Community nurses in villages would also be retrained to look out for symptoms when they visit people's houses for testing.

Taxi drivers and their bosses at Bree Taxi Rank in Johannesburg were still trying to figure out what to do yesterday.

A taxi driver who identified himself as Moses said there was no information available to help them implement some precautions against the virus.

Midday Mali, the spokesperson for Santaco in Gauteng, said the provincial executive was scheduled to meet to discuss a response to coronavirus.

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