Workers in Sydney face a nightmare commute with a host of new restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The New South Wales government today announced new measures to limit numbers on public transport amid fears the disease would spread rapidly on packed buses and trains as the economy restarts after lockdown.
Buses will refuse to let more than 12 people on at once, train stations will be closed if they get too busy and overflow parking at the Sydney Cricket Ground will be free to encourage people to drive.
An employee disinfects a train in the central business district of Sydney on May 13
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was concerned the transport network would quickly become too crowded if people who have been working from home go back to the office.
In normal times 2.2million journeys are made on NSW public transport per day.
This figure is currently at 570,000 with trains and buses already at maximum capacity while keeping passengers 1.5 metres apart.
‘Buses and trains in the peak remain an ongoing concern,’ Ms Berejiklian said today.
‘Where people can work from home we recommend that happen. If you can avoid the peak (before 10am and after 2pm) altogether then that’s the best option.’
There are fears public transport is a main way for the virus to spread. Pictured: Sydney peak hour last year before COVID-19
Ms Berejiklian said there is room on ferries and the city’s new light rail which was unveiled in December.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance urged people to travel by car but admitted traffic would be bad.
He said there is plenty of room for parking with the city’s car parks only 10 per cent full.
The overflow car park at Moore Park, next to the SCG, is free and residents can take the light rail from there into the city, he said.
Asked if other car parks would be made free to encourage driving, he said: ‘We’ll see what the private operators do.’
New South Wales residents have been told not to take public transport in the morning to avoid getting COVID-19. Pictured: Commuters on May 13 in Sydney
Mr Constance said police will be monitoring numbers at busy train stations and can close them if they get too busy.
Police Deputy Commissioners Gary Worboys said bus drivers will take a firm stand if too many people try to board.
‘If a thirteenth person hops on the bus that bus won’t be going anywhere until they get off or there is an appropriate resolution,’ he said.
It means that commuters could be left standing in the cold while several buses go past, unable to pick them up.
New South Wales recorded six new cases on Sunday and one new death.
The NSW Government’s COVIDSafe Transport Plan
Avoiding peak travel: If you are not already using public transport in the peak, please do NOT use public transport in the peak. Services are already close to capacity to allow for distancing at these times. Off peak times are between 10am and 2pm;
Deep cleaning and more hand sanitisers: Intense and ongoing cleaning will occur throughout the transport network and there will be a continued rollout of hand sanitiser at key transport hubs, including at high demand stations;
Boosting parking: Special event-style parking arrangements will be in place at Moore Park for people who are able to drive to work. Other locations will be rolled out soon. In addition car park operators will be offering special deals for all day parking;
More cycling and walking options: The Government is working with councils on establishing pop-up cycleways and enhancing pedestrian access to allow more people to find alternative routes to work;
‘No dot, no spot’: Distinctive green dots will be used on trains, buses and ferries to show passengers the safest places to sit and stand. A ‘No dot, no spot’ will see passengers asked to wait for the next service. School children will be given priority access;
More data: Customers to be given real time information through Apps, social media and Transport Info to see which services have space available to maintain physical distancing; and
More services: Changes will be considered to increase services eg; more ferries, water taxis and private vehicle passenger services on the water.
The man in his 60s had underlying health conditions and contracted the disease from a close personal contact, with his death bringing the national toll to 99.
NSW authorities have urged people to keep their distance from each other as social and economic restrictions are eased across the state.
McDonald’s has closed 12 outlets across Melbourne after a delivery driver tested positive to the disease.
The driver was an extended family member of a worker at Fawkner McDonald’s in the city’s north, where a cluster of 10 cases emerged earlier in the month.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told ABC News Breakfast that the border with NSW may not open until September.
‘I would say that things would look more positive towards September. Having said that, I don’t want to rule anything out. I will give you that advice at the end of May as quickly as possible,’ she said.
Ms Berejiklian, who wants the border open, responded furiously, saying: ‘Closing the border doesn’t help anyone.’
WA is easing some coronavirus restrictions from Monday, allowing more regional travel and 20 people to dine at restaurants and cafes.
In Tasmania, 10 people will be allowed in cafes and restaurants, and at churches, weddings, auctions and libraries.
Australia’s push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus is gathering international momentum, with 62 countries co-sponsoring a World Health Assembly motion.