Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bus driver hands out mask in fear of outbreak

A bus operator based in Tuy Hoa city in Phu Yen province has made it compulsory for all staff and passengers travelling to and from HCM City to wear face masks against swine flu and distributes them free of cost.

Cuc Tu, which runs the largest fleet between HCM City and the capital of central Phu Yen province, distributes the activated carbon masks to passengers as soon as they get on board.

Nguyen Thi Kim Cuc, the fleet owner, explained: "If we hand out the masks at ticket booths, chances are that people will just drop them."

The masks cost her VND30 million (US$1,700) a month, she said, but fares remain unchanged and the company would continue to bear the cost until the epidemic was wiped out.

"We’re in a peak season now, with students returning to the city for the new school year, increasing the risk of infection," she said, noting that her fleet of 30 buses transport around 1,000 people a day.

"Passengers stay packed in a narrow air-conditioned space. So the risk is high."

The masks were made mandatory soon after the first swine-flu death was reported in Nha Trang City earlier this month, she said.

Her husband, Ho Tu, who also manages the business, said any staff member would have a day’s salary cut if found not wearing the mask while working.

So far, the province had reported no cases of infection.

But Tu said he was very concerned since if just one infection is found in a coach, the whole fleet would be prevented from operating and the staff would be quarantined.

"So we should not regret the money spent on masks, because it can save passengers from infection and our credibility from being damaged.

"If other transporters follow us, I think it’s good for all."

Nguyen Truong Ton, 52, who was travelling with his wife and young daughter, said he got used to wearing masks since he traveled to the city three times a month on business.

"At first, it’s very uncomfortable," he admitted.

Huynh Van Trung, a driver for Cuc Tu, said many people in Phu Yen were too afraid to go to the city because of the outbreak of A/H1N1 flu and the company had to find ways to reassure them.

"I don’t know who’s infected and who’s not, so I think I should wear it for safety," Vuong Thi Mien, 51, who did not once take off her mask during the trip to HCM City, said.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News
Post a Comment