As thousands of children have returned to schools across England, the risk of a rise in coronavirus infections has also increased.
The lack of social distancing in school buses as they operate at full capacity has prompted fears in school bus drivers. Many have raised concern that some children are not wearing face coverings when travelling hence putting the school bus drivers` lives at risk.
Under government guidance, social distancing is not compulsory on dedicated school buses across the UK. However, the Unite union said it`s “extremely worried” drivers could easily get infected on “packed” buses.
Sheamus Greene, who drives a school bus in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which holds 45 children and travels at full capacity, said children who are above the age of 12 have been urged to wear face coverings, but only around 50% on his bus do so.
He said: “There’s an awful lot of drivers in this area in their 70s and mid to late 60s, and I know some of them to have underlying health problems as well. I don’t know of any other job where people have been expected to do what school bus drivers have been expected to do – sit in a confined space with up to 50 people for six hours a day.”
According to the government guidance for England, social distancing should be “maximised” between individuals or “bubbles” of children as far as is practicable as they spend the course of the day together.
It also suggests that other safety measures are an “appropriate balance” as children are at very low risk of being infected by the coronavirus because they do not have social contact with the general public on school buses.
The government has promised to give £40 million to help increase capacity and enable social distancing in school buses.
A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “Our drivers and escorts play a vital role in enabling children and young people to access education, and their health and wellbeing is important to us, so we are committed to keeping our guidance under review in line with government advice.”
Children need to be encouraged and enlightened on the importance of following regulations like wearing of face coverings in order to save their lives, as well as the lives of others.