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Updated on 19 Mar 2020. Posted on 17 Mar 2020

This Bus Driver Is Worried He Might Have COVID-19. His Bosses Gave Him A Bottle Of Hand Sanitiser.

"The drivers are freaking out. Look at what is going on in Spain, look where Italy was a few weeks ago."

Lots of people in Australia and around the world have started working from home and practising "self distancing" as the coronavirus spreads. But many more have jobs where that isn't possible.

BuzzFeed News spoke to a Sydney bus driver – who asked not to be identified so they did not face potential ramifications at work — about what it's like transporting hundreds of people around every day in an enclosed environment during a global pandemic.

Greg Wood / Getty Images

As told to Peter Holmes:

"I haven’t been able to sleep. I’m anxious. My routes include picking up staff from the Dorothy Henderson nursing home [in Macquarie Park], where 10 people have tested positive to COVID-19 and three have died; Epping Boys High, which was shut down; Ryde Hospital, where a doctor tested positive. I was telling a doctor I know about this and he said 'Oh my God'.

I was listening to Bill Bowtell [adjunct professor from the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity] on Radio National last week and he was saying we should be taking every possible measure to stop the spread. He said we have to take control of this before it takes control of us — in hours, not days.

The premier [Gladys Berejiklian] is saying it’s not business as usual, but on the buses it is business as usual. The drivers are freaking out. Look at what is going on in Spain, look where Italy was a few weeks ago.

We have buses going into the city with a full standing load. That can be more than 70 people. Is that safe? On a bendy bus, 100 people. If a bus goes down Oxford Street to Bondi there are people getting on and off the whole way. The drivers can have 200 people getting on and off in one trip, all sitting in an enclosed space right next to each other.

What if I have got it, and now I’m spreading it around like the plague?

I spoke to a manager and they said just keep cleaning your hands. People are always coughing and sneezing on buses. One of my colleagues had to tell someone to cover their nose while they’re sneezing. We’ve got people leaning over at us asking ‘Does this bus go to wherever?’ and I’m leaning back saying to myself ‘You don’t have to get right in my face’. And then they get offended. The [Opal Card] tap-and-go is right near the driver, and you’ve got people waving them on and off all day.

A union rep told me a lot of the drivers are concerned, but the standard response [from management] is that we’re following the advice of New South Wales Health. I give them one thing — we get a bottle of hand sanitiser that we can refill at the depot, so they’re doing what they can there, they are following NSW Health recommendations, but this isn’t enough.

Are they doing everything they can to provide me with a safe workplace, and the passengers a safe form of transport? What if I have got it, and now I’m spreading it around like the plague? We have young people, old people, all ages on the buses."

What is it like doing your job in the coronavirus outbreak? Email lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com if you'd like to share your story.



Contact Peter Holmes at peter.holmes@buzzfeed.com.

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