Japan night bus operator sanctioned after ordering COVID-infected driver to work

The government building housing the Kinki District Transportation Bureau can be seen in the Chuo district of Osaka. (Mainichi)

OSAKA – A long-distance night bus operator in western Japan was subject to an administrative penalty on Nov. 21 for putting a driver on duty after he was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, in the first such case in the country.

The Kinki District Transport Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism took administrative action against Sunshine Express, an express bus operator in Tambasasayama, Hyogo Prefecture, suspending the use of three buses for 30 days each.

According to the transport office, the bus driver in his 50s reported to the operator on the morning of August 8 that his PCR test had come back positive. However, the operator ordered him to drive a night bus from Tokyo to Osaka from August 8 the next morning. Up to 27 people were on board the bus, and it is unconfirmed whether they were infected with the coronavirus.

Authorities conducted an on-site inspection of the operator after receiving an anonymous report on August 9. The transport office determined that the operator had breached a ministerial order based on the Road Transport Act, which prohibits staff who cannot drive safely due to illness, fatigue or other factors. related to boarding vehicles.

The operator admitted the accusations were true and reportedly explained: “We received a report of the coronavirus infection, but we heard that the driver was not in bad condition. It was difficult to find a member of staff to replace him during the busy season. before Bon’s vacation.” He also told the Mainichi Shimbun, “We judged that the anti-coronavirus measures, such as putting up blackout curtains as a partition between the passenger seats and the driver’s seat, were sufficient. . Thinking about it now, they weren’t.”

(Japanese original by Kohei Shimizu, Osaka City News Department)

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