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Bus drivers doing their best to weather pandemic

Some bus drivers have been managing to cope with the emergency lockdown measures brought on by COVID-19 so far, according to Corvell Colebrooke, the general secretary of The Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union.

Colebrooke told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the union has been keeping in touch with nearly 200 bus drivers to make sure everyone is doing okay while riding out the pandemic.

“Well, just like the normal citizen of The Bahamas, we are bored out of our minds,” he said.

Under the emergency measures implemented on March 20, buses are not permitted to operate.

This means that bus drivers are among the numerous Bahamians who have been without income for nearly a month.

“[I’m] still waiting on National Insurance to send over what they’re supposed to but it’s a wait,” Colebrooke said.

“I’ve been denied twice [but] you know National Insurance’s line is long, so I’m not even trying to go outside to go stand on [any] long line.”

He added, “Underneath the form, drivers are sending in their public service driver’s license.

“I do not know if they’re having a problem with their system, but we have drivers who are still sending in their public service driver’s license and still it’s coming up saying that they are not underneath the act.

“And then you have some drivers who are getting through with the same public service driver’s license so this is probably a glitch that National Insurance needs to fix.”

In the meantime, Colebrooke is at home looking after his three-year-old and 13-year-old, and is thankful that he had some money saved up for a rainy day.

The other drivers he’s spoken to, he said, seem to be doing likewise and just waiting for normal life to return.

“On the group it’s the same thing,” Colebrooke said.

“They are just home, relaxing, asking the same question that I am asking. But every day somebody else comes up with the COVID-19 so it doesn’t really look like it would be any time soon that we’ll be allowed back to work.

“Now that is the question that we would like to be answered, but it’s nothing we could do with a state of emergency.

“Once you’re in a state of emergency, that’s it for us until the prime minister lifts the state of emergency and that doesn’t look like that could be any time soon.”

A resolution to extend the state of emergency to April 30 was passed in the House of Assembly and the Senate on April 6.

The extension would see the continuance of the 24-hour curfew as well as weekend-long lockdowns for the rest of the month.

During a national address on Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the country is making progress but also warned that “we still have a long way to go”.

However, Colebrooke said it would be challenging if the measures were to be extended past mid-May or going into the summer months.

Noting that it’s already been a month since bus drivers have been unable to work, Colebrooke said: “The 13th made it a month now that we’ve been off the road and so if you look at May 13th, it would be two months.

“If you go into June, it would be three months off the road. Even with assistance from National Insurance, at some time or another we will begin to run extremely low on cash.

He added, “The country, I think, needs to be back to work by the middle of May, ending part of May.”

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