Bonn With school lessons starting up again on alternate days, more passengers will be travelling on public transport. Meanwhile the bus drivers are still waiting for their vaccinations.
In the coming days, Bonn will slowly be returning to normality, step by step: As soon as the incidence rate remains stable below 100, the first restrictions will be lifted in various areas. On Monday, schools will start teaching in so-called alternating classes again. However, this also means that more young people will be travelling by bus and train again twice a day. However, in the past, many pupils on some routes had to stand close to each other before classes started as well as after school. It was by no means possible to constantly keep sufficient distances.
The Stadtwerke have reacted to the renewed school start by providing “amplified services” in addition to the regular services. “From 17 May, to coincide with the start of the alternating classes in Bonn, we will once again be running the normal services plus the regular amplified services to hospitals and schools,” explains Veronika John, spokeswoman for the Stadtwerke. Months ago, the transport companies had already added many extra journeys to Bonn schools to help protect against infection.
Risk of infection when using public transport
According to a study carried out by the Charité Research Organisation (CRO), there has not been a higher risk of infection on public transport compared to private transport. On behalf of the federal states and the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), the renowned research institute has compared the direct risk of infection for bus and train passengers with that of commuters who travel regularly by car, motorbike or bicycle. 681 volunteers were randomly selected. All participants were medically examined at the beginning and end of the study. “It has now been scientifically proven that the use of public transport is not associated with an increased risk of corona infection,” comments Anja Wenmakers, managing director of SWB Bus und Bahn, on the results of the study. “Strict hygiene rules, airing and cleaning the vehicles, keeping at a distance and wearing a mask are effective tools in the pandemic,” she says.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Stadtwerke have once again tightened their hygiene measures. For example, the interiors of the buses and trains are cleaned every day, and all surfaces are thoroughly cleansed on a regular basis. "In addition, sufficient disinfectant is available to the drivers so that they can also clean their personal workspace again if necessary," explains Veronika John.
Stadtwerke wants to use company doctors for vaccinations
However, hygiene measures and Plexiglas covers do not guarantee 100 per cent protection against infection. Drivers are only really safe once they have been vaccinated. Despite working on the front line for months, they have not yet been offered the vaccine. A decision that is incomprehensible for many. “Last week, the NRW state government announced that the priority for group 3 would probably be lifted even before workers in critical infrastructure have been vaccinated. The services provided by Stadtwerke Bonn are also considered critical infrastructure,” complains Veronika John. The Stadtwerke has therefore registered with the Confederation of German Employers' Associations so that their company doctors can take action. However, the employees still have to be patient. "This will be the case at the beginning of July at the earliest," the spokeswoman estimates.
The works council is also angered by the fact that the drivers have not been included in the vaccination process earlier. Although the council is pleased with the results of the Charité study, “it is much more important that our colleagues working in the field are all vaccinated. We drive day and night, carry out our duty in close quarters with many other people and keep Bonn up and running. The vaccine must be made available to all drivers as soon as possible,” responds Monika Pohl, chair of the works council.
Bus drivers want prompt vaccination
A demand shared by two bus drivers when they meet at the bus station at midday on Friday for the shift change. "So far we have made it through the pandemic. But hardly anyone has registered that we are also key workers. We have to go outside every day, or are we supposed to work from home?" they respond with grim humour. "I really wish that the politicians had seen us and our work too. We would come to work with a better feeling if we had finally been vaccinated," they agree. "Let's hope we continue to test negative."
If the seven-day incidence rate drops below 100 for a week, night services on public transport will also start up again, according to information from the Stadtwerke.
The rules - Multi-stage testing strategy
If the incidence rate remains under 100 for five consecutive working days, the federal emergency brake will cease to apply from the day after next. The date of expiry for the emergency brake must also be announced by the NRW Ministry of Health by general decree. This results in a period of seven days.
According to a resolution by the city's crisis management team, the multi-stage test strategy, taking into account the new Corona Protection Ordinance, is now to be presented to the trade and commercial associations and decided upon by the crisis management team on 19 May. If the municipal measures go beyond the state's Corona Protection Ordinance, they must be approved by the NRW Ministry of Health.
(Original text: Gabriele Immenkeppel, Translation: Caroline Kusch)