EghtesadOnline: Traffic schemes in Tehran resumed as of Saturday, pushing more people toward using public transportation and increasing the spread of coronavirus.
Many experts have cautioned that the observation of social distancing is very hard while using public transportation services.
Tehran Metro CEO Farnoush Nobakht has warned people against undertaking outdoor activities, while urging commuters to use the subway at less crowded hours as far as possible, ILNA reported.
Noting that 7-8 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. are the metro rush hours, Nobakht said the metro company has taken measures to handle the crowd of passengers while focusing on hygienic criteria.
“Wearing facemasks is mandatory in trains and passengers who ignore the rule will be notified,” he said.
The authorities are facilitating the distribution of subsidized facemasks at the entrance of subway stations to help implement the plan.
In addition, the train headway has shrunk in all lines by 0.5 to 1 minute.
Pointing to the possibility of trains to skip certain stations to control the crowd inside wagons, Nobakht said this is not a practical solution for intersections but stations with few passengers might be skipped by some trains with previous notice.
“We are planning to add more trains to subway lines with the dangerously highest number of passengers,” he added.
Officials have also marked subway seats with special signs to help passengers maintain a safe distance.
However, the signs are only useful when passengers do not exceed 40% of the wagon’s capacity.
The measures are expected to curb the risk of using public means of transportation, considering the fact that the number of passengers using buses and subway is on an upward trajectory.
Social distancing is being promoted by governments as the most efficient way to minimize the spread of coronavirus and flatten its curve in affected communities.
In line with efforts to help people observe the criteria, the government temporarily suspended restrictive traffic rules in Tehran, the so-called “Traffic Scheme” and “Air Pollution Control” scheme for over two months. According to the local media, the schemes will be resumed from Saturday.
The Traffic Scheme is usually enforced in a 3,000-hectare area in the city center where cars, except public transportation vehicles, are barred from entering the area between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Entering the zone costs up to 517,000 rials ($2.9) for private vehicles.
APC defines an 88.5-square-kilometer area in central Tehran, which could be entered for free over a maximum of 20 days each season, or 80 days a year.
Furthermore, all the businesses and shops, besides the essential ones such as food outlets, grocery stores and bakeries in the city were under lockdown until April 11 when inter-city traffic restrictions were implemented around the country.
The partial quarantine observed since late February is gradually ending, such that only cinemas and theater halls remain closed in Tehran.
Before Covid-19, Tehran Metro used to carry up to 3 million passengers per day. Health experts warn that the use of public transport can increase the coronavirus infection risk.
Officials have repeatedly warned that the virus is still spreading and infecting people in the city and the situation has not normalized. The resumption of social activities can make it tough to handle mortalities related to the disease.
According to the Health Ministry, public vehicles are more polluted compared to universities and schools, so extra care should be taken by citizens using them.
Urban managers say the ventilation system of subway trains is concentrated, meaning that the air in wagons is constantly circulating and combining with the outside air.
This means one infected person in a train car can most possibly pollute the air in all cars. Since this is also the case in buses, there is a strong possibility of the second wave of coronavirus pandemic starting in the city, if nothing is done to prevent transmission.
By Saturday, Covid-19 has infected 6,850,612 people in the world, claiming the lives of 398,244. According to official reports, 3,351,249 patients have so far recovered.
In Iran, 167,156 people have been diagnosed with the acute respiratory disease, 8,134 of whom have died. Figures show that 2,886 people were diagnosed with the disease on June 5.