Winnipeg Transit buses taped off in an ‘abundance of caution’ amid fears of COVID-19 exposure

By | March 19, 2020

A Winnipeg Transit driver is in self-isolation after reporting he had flu-like symptoms Wednesday evening.

“The operator was immediately advised to stop driving the bus,” a City of Winnipeg spokesperson said in an email statement sent to CBC News.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the buses that the operator came into contact with over the last two days were immediately taken out of service and will be thoroughly disinfected prior to being released back into service,” the statement says.

The union that represents Winnipeg Transit workers said two to four city buses are affected, and union leaders learned about the quarantine through social media.

Romeo Ignacio of the Amalgamated Transit Union says two to four Winnipeg Transit buses have been quarantined as a precautionary measure and at this point there has not been a verified case of COVID-19 exposure among bus drivers. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

“We understand the fear in the public and among our members, and we are looking into getting the information that we need to make sure that we’re not driving or the public’s not driving [in] buses that have been infected,” said Romeo Ignacio, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Photos sent to the media by the union show taped-off buses, including one with a handwritten sign taped to a window that says “COVID-19.”

“Of course we don’t want to fearmonger. We don’t want to spread unverified information. It could be just an ordinary flu.”

The union is trying to find out if any bus drivers have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

ATU Local 1505 says it learned about the quarantined buses Thursday morning after drivers arrived at work and discovered several buses had been taped off and placed out of service. (Submitted by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505)

Mayor Brian Bowman declined to comment when asked about the buses on Thursday morning at city hall.

“There’s a lot of lot of concern right now amongst bus operators, amongst all citizens in the city right now or across Canada,” said John Callahan, International ATU vice-president.

“We’re all trying to do the best we can. This is not a time for finger pointing, but rather a time for us to do everything that we can. I’d rather be criticized for doing too much than too little.”

Winnipeg Transit drivers haven’t been able to get hand sanitizer and are asking for help, Callahan said.

“If there’s anyone that knows where we can get hand sanitizer for our bus operators, please let us know,” he said.

The union says Winnipeg Transit is only cleaning 80 to 100 buses a day out of 640, whereas the Toronto Transit Commission is cleaning all of its fleet daily.

The ATU is meeting with Winnipeg Transit on Friday and hopes to talk about best practices being used in other cities, like rear door boarding, during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Amalgamated Transit Union says at least four Winnipeg Transit buses have been taped off. (Submitted by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505)

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