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Coronavirus / Councillor says waiving fares could protect ferry and bus staff from virus

The Bluemull Sound ferry terminal.The Bluemull Sound ferry terminal.

A COUNCILLOR has suggested the idea that fares on ferries and buses could be waived in an effort to limit contact between staff and customers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Lerwick North member Stephen Leask said it is “vitally important that our ferry and bus staff are safe”.

It comes after the UK and Scottish governments issued new guidance on Monday which advises against “non-essential” contact with others in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Councillor Stephen Leask.

Ferries and buses are still running to their normal timetable, but with more people based at home as services close there is an expectation that public transport usage will decrease.

Nevertheless, Leask said that measures should be in place to allow ferry staff and bus drivers protection against the virus.

He has contacted councillor Ryan Thomson, who is chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee, to raise the suggestion.

“I feel it is important during this time of force majeure for the council , that the island communities’ ferry service be resilient and sustainable,” Leask said.

“This would mean waiving ferry fees for customers as contact must be limited.

“I have had concerned bus drivers tell me they too must have social distancing measures in place.

“It is vitally important that our ferry and bus staff are safe, so I have expressed this to the relevant members.”

There is currently guidance in place for passengers to stay in their own vehicles, while foot passengers are asked to respect cleanliness and hygiene in the waiting areas.

In response to Leask’s suggestion, Thomson said SIC staff are advised to wash their hands after handling money, and not to touch their face.

He added that the council will continue to keep “well informed” on the most current medical advice.

“The council’s position is aligned with the advice of the World Health Organisation’s recommendations,” Thomson said.

“Staff are advised to wash their hands after handling cash and not to touch their face. It is imperative on us all to maintain good hygiene.

“The main source of transmission for Covid-19 is person to person. The SIC will remain well informed on the most up to date medical advice, and if this changes, we will review our position.”