The federal and state governments advise on corona protection in local public transport. Transport companies consider a speaking ban to be useful in order to reduce the spread of aerosol.
BERLIN taz | A “speaking ban” on buses and trains to reduce the spread of the coronavirus – this is suggested by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV). The association, in which 600 companies from public passenger and rail freight transport are organized, is critical of the introduction of an FFP2 mask requirement.
At the meeting of the Prime Ministers and the Federal Chancellor on Tuesday, in addition to the question of a night curfew to contain the corona pandemic, other nationwide uniform requirements for retail and public transport are on the agenda. The federal government has already clearly denied reports of the closure of local public transport.
Bavaria should be a model for new rules. There, customers in retail and on buses and trains are required to wear an FFP2 mask. These masks offer far more protection than simple cover. With the exception of cashiers sitting behind Plexiglas, employees in retail must wear mouth and nose protection inside, but not an FFP2 mask. In Berlin, on the other hand, employees in supermarkets have so far not had to wear any mask.
According to the VDV, the number of passengers in local transport is currently 30 to 40 percent of the usual volume nationwide. This corresponds to around 14 million trips a day. Overcrowded buses and trains are still not uncommon in rush hour traffic. It is true that a mouth and nose cover is compulsory on public transport, but the quality is not mandatory.
In Spain there is already the requirement of silence
The VDV does not consider an FFP2 mask requirement in buses and trains to be the right step. On the one hand, it is not possible to check whether passengers have the correct mask. In addition, protection might be lacking in other areas. According to calculations by the VDV, more than 100 million FFP2 masks would be needed per month if the Bavarian rule were to be extended nationwide. It is unclear what the supply situation is in Germany. The North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Health Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU), for example, fears bottlenecks, while pharmacists are more likely to give the all-clear.
The VDV considers the ban on passengers in buses and trains to talk or make phone calls to be more sensible than an FFP2 mask requirement. “Avoiding conversations with each other and by telephone would be another way of reducing the spread of aerosols,” said VDV President Ingo Wortmann. In Spain, the government had already recommended in autumn to remain silent on buses and trains. The regional government of the Balearic Islands has now banned talking on buses and trains in Mallorca.
The epidemiologist and SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach considers an FFP2 mask requirement for public transport to be far more important than a “speaking ban”. “It is important to introduce the FFP2 mask requirement in public transport,” he told the taz. Lauterbach demands that poor people get free masks. He thinks it makes sense that people speak less on buses and trains, because much more aerosols are emitted when speaking than when simply breathing. In his opinion, it would be enough to hang up signs on buses and trains with a corresponding note and a request not to speak.
Upper limit for passengers
Health expert Lauterbach advocates introducing an upper limit for the number of passengers on buses and trains in order to further contain the virus. Traffic experts would have to set this limit, he said. The VDV rejects the introduction of such an upper limit. “That would stop the system from working,” said VDV spokesman Lars Wagner. Buses, for example, have to pass stops when the upper limit is reached or, if exceeded, could only start when passengers have alighted. So timetables are not to be adhered to.
The service union ver.di is also critical of an upper limit in local public transport. “We are dependent on the employees of the systemically important industries, it must be ensured that they get to work with priority,” said Ver.di Deputy Chair Christine Behle. Should the federal-state round decide on Tuesday, accompanying measures are required. According to ver.di, this includes priority for employees in system-relevant professions when traveling by bus and train during rush hour. In addition, additional money must be made available for hiring the necessary staff.