Dubai: With schools in the UAE set to reopen soon, the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai has called on school bus operators to step up protection against the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to RTA data, more than 153,000 students enrolled in private schools and 21,000 students from public schools in Dubai use school buses, which have now reached 6,732 units in the emirate.
The RTA said school buses must operate only at 50 per cent capacity. There should also be daily screening of temperature of all staff and students before boarding the bus. Full sanitisation of the bus is a must and there has to be a provision of personal protective equipment for staffs and students.
“In its regulatory role over the school transport sector activity in Dubai, RTA’s Public Transport Agency is committed to making every effort to safeguard the safety of students during their mobility to and from schools,” said Adel Shakri, Director of Planning and Business Development, Public Transport Agency, RTA.
The RTA recently held a remote video workshop for school bus operators in Dubai. It was attended by around 120 representatives from schools and schools’ bus operators. Discussions were focused on precautionary measures against the spread of the pandemic.
“The holding of this workshop echoes our leaders’ directives to implement comprehensive precautionary measures to cope with the outbreak of COVID-19 across all sectors, the school transport sector included,” noted Shakri.
What must be done
During the online workshop, Shakri enumerated the measures that must be observed and for the safety of students and staff.
In its regulatory role over the school transport sector activity in Dubai, RTA’s Public Transport Agency is committed to making every effort to safeguard the safety of students during their mobility to and from schools
He said: “Measures set include the number of students on board must not exceed 50 per cent of the bus capacity; the daily screening of temperature of all staff involved, screening the temperature of students before boarding the bus, full sanitisation of the bus before use, and the provision of personal protective equipment for staffs and students.”
School bus operators must also put in place awareness posters on the exterior and interior of the bus. Seats should likewise be marked clearly to ensure physical distancing.
Shakri added: “Attendants supporting students on buses shall try their best to avoid touching students or their belongings. Masks for students are mandated for the ages as specified by the KHDA [Knowledge and Human Development Authority] and DHA [Dubai Health Authority] protocols.”
In case there are common RFID card readers on the buses for staff or students, an alternative mechanism shall be devised in order to avoid a common touch point.
“Students from same family [siblings] may be allowed to sit together. Bus seating arrangement should be clearly marked and easy to understand for students so that the same students are seated in the same seats every day for regular bus routes,” Shakri noted.
“All passengers and drivers should also perform hand hygiene before and after boarding the bus. As per routine school bus protocols, students should remain seated in their own seats and should not move around the bus. School Bus Operators shall ensure there is enhanced cleaning of seats and other high-contact surfaces (e.g., windows, railings) before each new group of students attends the bus. Bus pick-up and drop-off of students at the school should be staggered where possible, to avoid crowding at the school entrance,” he continued.
The RTA also told school bus operators to have an updated lists of bus riders and drivers to enable contact tracing if required. Parents are likewise advised to self-report all positive cases and suspected cases
“The RTA will take measures against parties that fail to comply with the applicable precautionary measures as part of its responsibility to protect students from potential hazards of the pandemic,” Shakri noted.