COVID-19 Raises Concerns for Travellers – Bus Passengers Warned of Possible Virus Exposure

Ontario Northland Transportation bus in Thunder Bay
Ontario Northland Transportation bus in Thunder Bay

Bus Passengers Advised of Possible Exposure in Algoma Health Region

THUNDER BAY – COVID-19 second wave has raised concern across Ontario and Manitoba.
As Ontario is seeing nearly 900 cases of the virus reported daily, Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region have been placed into Stage Two with increased restrictions.

There is also a concern in the Algoma Public Health region as the authority is advising Ontario Northland Bus passengers who were on the bus from Sault Ste Marie to Sudbury and from Sudbury to Toronto on October 7, 2020, during the afternoon bus that they may have contracted COVID-19.

There was a positive test on October 5, 2020. Algoma Public Health advises, “People who took the 11:30 a.m. bus from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury, sat in rows 3-8 and the 4:30 p.m. bus from Sudbury to Toronto (Yorkdale), rows 3-8 should contact Algoma Public Health at 705-759-5404 (toll-free 1-866-892-0172, ext. 5404) or their local public health unit”.

There are continued travel restrictions heading west into Manitoba. Manitoba has continued to implement strict quarantine restrictions on visitors arriving in the province from east of Terrace Bay.

On Friday, Ontario’s transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney told NetNewsLedger: “We continue to operate motor coach services throughout the Province with enhanced safety measures and physical distancing practices in place on all its motor coaches. Masks are mandatory at all times throughout the journey. We encourage passengers to travel for essential reasons only.”

The ONTC buses travel from Southern Ontario to Winnipeg.

Manitoba’s Emergency Orders

Manitoba residents who have traveled to “western Canada* or “northwestern Ontario** are exempt from the self-isolation requirements when they return to Manitoba if they have not traveled outside of western Canada or northwestern Ontario and are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. Residents of western Canada or northwestern Ontario are also exempt if they have not traveled to another country or any part of Canada outside of western Canada or northwestern Ontario in the 14-day period immediately before entering or arriving in Manitoba and are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.

*Western Canada means British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (as defined in the order).

**northwestern Ontario means that portion of Ontario that is located west of Terrace Bay (as defined in the order)

Other persons who are exempt from the self-isolation requirements include: :

transporters of goods and people such as truckers and pilots
people traveling to facilitate shared parenting arrangements
people traveling for emergency medical purposes

Manitoba’s rules are impacting some passengers on interprovincial bus lines and air travelers as well as private travel.

The rules might be extended depending on what happens with COVID-19 second wave numbers.

Northwestern Ontario bus operator Kasper Wabinski of Kasper Transportation states that their company has implemented stringent policies surrounding COVID-19.

All of the government regulations are strongly enforced. Wabinski tells NetNewsLedger that, “No international passengers, who have not implemented a 14-day quarantine are allowed on our buses.”

Wabinski states that the impact of COVID-19 has been harsh on the transportation sector and that unlike other government subsidized bus companies the company is doing the best it can.

That path might become more difficult for all of the private bus operators in Ontario. The Doug Ford government is getting set to de-regulate the intercommunity coach bus service. Bus travel has seen decreased service in recent years.

Greyhound

Greyhound Canada suspended all routes several years ago

Minister Mulroney tells NNL, “Intercommunity bus (ICB) carriers play a critical role in Ontario’s transportation system, which is why we are improving access to transportation by making it easier for carriers to do business in Ontario. By reducing red tape and regulatory burdens through the deregulation of the intercommunity bus sector, we will support economic recovery and improve transportation options for the people of Ontario.

“Deregulating the sector will make it easier for new carriers to step in and address service gaps for passengers and lead to more and better transportation options for the people of Ontario.”

The Minister states, “Specifically, deregulation would create an open ICB market, support new entrants, and foster competition and innovation, which is expected to result in job creation and improved access to employment and critical services at the regional and provincial levels”.

There are reported moves afoot at the federal level to look at means of securing service for intercommunity buses across Canada. Federal sources tell NetNewsLedger the issue has been raised in the Liberal caucus and MPs are expressing interest.

Kasper Wabinski says ” Long-distance travel and crossing multiple health zones puts northern Ontario people at risk. Northern Ontario is doing great right now compared to southern Ontario. We do not want that to change because of irresponsible travelers. Our company canceled all routes in the Toronto area and do not transport customers from southern Ontario to northern Ontario and to Manitoba from so far away”.

“All of our customers are within the approved travel regions. Most travel is sanctioned by medical officials”.

Wabinski adds,  “In my opinion, It is too risky to travel from Toronto to Winnipeg and irresponsible for any company to make that possible. so Kasper Transportation is avoiding bringing the virus into the region by not enabling and facilitating easy access to long-distance bus travel at this time”.

“We are focused on local customers who reside in our region. Making us a much safer travel option than any other options available. We will continue to take strong precautions to instill confidence for this who have to travel for essential reasons. We continue to do temperatures checks, require masks, and frequent hand sanitizing”.

“All our vehicles will continue to be disinfected by our trained staff before and after every trip. So far we have not had a single case of COVID-19 transported on our network. These measures are costly but essential in the fight with this pandemic.”