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Aug 3, 2021

COVID-19 Cluster on James Bus Line

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, for the first time, there is a cluster being detected in the public transportation industry. James Bus Line suspended its runs three days ago after six employees tested positive for the virus late last week. The Ministry of Health and Wellness, is recommending a phased approach for the bus line to return to the highway. Referred to as a bus cluster, James Bus Line will only be able to carry fifty percent of its capacity and provide only non-stop service when it resumes its runs on Wednesday. The company must constantly sanitize bus fleet and all passengers must wear face masks properly. Meanwhile, there are guidelines outlined in S.I. Seventy-Four that other bus operators must adhere to; non-compliance will lead to fines and possible rescinding of permits. But the Ministry of Transport is also appealing to commuters to help keep the bus companies accountable. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

The Ministry of Health and Wellness continues to screen and provide tests to close contacts of some eighteen employees from James Bus Line who have so far tested positive for COVID-19. And so these persons remain in isolation or quarantine. Since the pandemic, this is the first outbreak that the public transportation industry is reporting and it’s concerning.


Marconi Leal Jr., C.E.O., Ministry of Public Utilities, Energy and Logistics

“We got the information late Friday night that some of the James Bus operators would have tested positive and because of six of them being positive, they wanted to test the entire James team and that would have taken place on Saturday and because it was already a high percent of the total amount of employees, they asked us to get involved.”


Falling under the purview of the Ministry of Public Utilities, Energy and Logistics, a quick response saw other bus operators activated and stepping in to take on the runs to and from southern Belize.


Marconi Leal Jr.

Marconi Leal Jr.

“….to ensure that other bus operators would go on the road and not take the risk further. So we worked with the Ministry of Health and we started to call bus operators and finalise that schedule early Saturday morning to ensure that passengers would have not been impacted as much as possible. We want to minimize the exposure of anybody and these bus operators and conductors come in contact with hundreds of customers on a daily basis and we ensured that we worked with Ministry of Health. We were on the phone with James Bus [Line] to support them with finding bus operators to finalise the schedule when there would have been peaked times.”


Today, however, a video surfaced online of an overcrowded bus with standees; this is not in compliance with COVID-19 protocols currently in place. According to the quarantine regulations, buses should be operating at a seventy-five percent capacity and this, according to C.E.O. Marconi Leal Junior, is being adhered to. There is also sanitization being done at the terminals. But what happens after these buses leave the terminals is another matter.


Marconi Leal Jr.

“We’ve been having challenges with that when these buses leave the terminal because we have our terminal management team that would manage that only seventy-five percent of customers can buy a ticket, only seventy-five percent can be before these buses leave the terminal. We’ve tried to optimise the enforcement. One of the things that we are doing at the Department of Transport is trying to ensure that we capture these operators that are not willing to enforce this and not follow the protocols and the S.I.  So we are launching a short code soon that you’ll be able to call in directly; it is going to three digit number. And we are also finalizing our WhatsApp number that we will be communicating so that these videos could be shared directly to us and we could immediately called the owners of these buses so that they can call their drivers. We have been issuing tickets and they have to pay the fine because they are not adhering to it. We’ve told bus operators we’re not going to renew permits and based on the amount of complaints that you have, it is going to impact the future of your bus operating with the amount of complaints that we receive.”


C.E.O. Marconi Leal Junior says that they are also asking for all persons within the transport industry to get vaccinated.  Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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