Dhe subway carried the virus through New York. From Brooklyn to Queens, from Manhattan to the Bronx. 25 lines, 380 route kilometers, almost five million passengers on a normal working day – the perfect virus scraper, as the economist Jeffrey E. Harris from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge (USA) concludes in a recent study.
Harris highlighted the relationship between traffic and infection numbers. Public transport, so summarizes the expert was largely, if not mainly, responsible for the virus being able to spread so widely in the metropolis.
And in Germany? The subways and buses in many big cities are just starting to roll up again. Which turns the risk of infection into a logistical problem in everyday urban traffic.
Gradually the businesses reopen and the first pupils can go back to school, the transport companies are again registering increasing passenger numbers. All federal states are now making the mask a mandatory accessory on public transport, it is informed and announced. At the same time, the minimum distance of 1.5 meters is already only a theoretical ideal in many places.
Hamburg on a Tuesday afternoon. There are about 20 passengers on the number 5 bus towards the city center – none of them wear a mouth-nose guard. The people are spread out over the entire length of the bus, everyone is sitting alone, only a man and a woman almost touch each other with the back of their heads. When more passengers get on at Dammtorbahnhof, one of the city’s transport hubs, the distance is over.
“You have noticed an increase in passenger numbers since Monday morning,” says Christoph Kreienbaum, spokesman for the Hamburg elevated railway. Buses in particular would be used more. In some cases, they have already “readjusted” so that the passengers can still keep the safety distance if possible. In current operation, the drivers would report when it got too crowded at certain points. Then buses would also be used on busy routes. “This affects, for example, the lines to the clinics or to Airbus,” says Kreienbaum. You can do this by using reserve buses or by pulling buses off the lines where there is little demand.
However, nothing will change with the subways – unlike others Big cities Hamburg has largely maintained its normal clock rate since the beginning of the Corona crisis. “We wanted to show people that they can drive safely at their usual times and also keep a distance from each other,” says the Hochbahn spokesman. For this one had to accept the one or the other “ghost ride”. In general, it makes little sense to reduce the clocking if you want to keep the distance between the passengers as good as possible.
“Unfortunately, the BVG has gambled away trust”
In Berlin it is obviously different. The BVG had already reduced the subway frequency in March to take account of the falling demand, subways only ran every ten minutes. The Berlin transport company had to take a lot of criticism for this: pictures of full trains circulate in the social networks; Jens Wieseke, spokesman for the Berlin Passenger Association IGEB, never tired of criticizing the situation and calling for a return to normal operation.
“Unfortunately, the BVG has gambled away trust,” says Wieseke WELT. “It is true that fewer people are on the move. But they also need a lot more space. ”Wieseke reports about a nurse who contacted him. “She had to wait half an hour for her bus on the way to work. And then it was very full. ”The woman worked on a ward with corona patients. It was irresponsible to the passengers.
BVG spokeswoman Petra Nelken is calm. “Public transport is fundamentally not built to keep a distance of 1.5 meters,” she says. That applies to Berlin as well as to any other big city in the world. The subway lines 2, 5 and 7 already run in normal intervals anyway, from May 4 the BVG will then return completely to the normal schedule. To do that Contagion risk to minimize, is now also asked every single passenger.
“It would be helpful, for example, if people would use the cars in the middle more often and not get into the first or last car,” says Nelken. A certain flexibility in travel times is also desirable. “When the train is particularly busy in the morning at 7.27 a.m., everyone should consider whether, in case of doubt, they can also take a train or two later to avoid crowds.”
Whether in Hamburg or Berlin: Upon WELT demand, the transport companies welcome the future Mask requirement expressly. One recommendation alone was simply not enough, according to the Hamburg City Hall. There are still discussions about possible punishments – it is also not yet clear who should hold the maskless to account. In Hamburg, the new regulation is to be poured into an ordinance, the police would then be the supervisory body. Overall, however, they rely heavily on passenger cooperation, it is said from all three cities.
However, it is also true that experts are still divided over what mouth and nose protection actually brings. Infectiologist Klaus-Dieter Zastrow recently emphasized in the WELT interview that the masks are “the crucial thing that can really prevent the infection” – the Robert Koch Institute, on the other hand, had even warned at the beginning of the pandemic about a deceptive feeling of security that the masks conveyed will.
Keeping clear is still listed on the institute’s homepage as the most important measure in the fight against virus spread. Wearing the Face protection could be an additional building block to reduce the rate of spread of Covid-19 in the population – “but only if distance (at least 1.5 meters) from other people, cough and sneeze rules and good hand hygiene are maintained”. Infectious disease specialist Zastrow not only advises you to wear a mask, but also recommends disinfectant in your jacket pocket (“if you have touched the bar”) and wearing household gloves.
Purely formally, says Lars Wagner from the Association of German Transport Companies, the minimum distance in public transport does not apply. However, the companies would endeavor to have as many buses and trains as possible, to guarantee as much space as possible. “But companies cannot use more than 100 percent – there is a limit,” he says.
In addition to the hygiene risks for passengers, the transport companies currently have a completely different problem: According to WELT information, the association anticipates a loss in sales of up to one billion euros per month. “Obviously, if people stay at home, a lot of the ticket revenue will go away. We will have to talk to politicians about making up for this loss of revenue, ”says spokesman Lars Wagner.
And also has bad news for illegal drivers: “Despite Corona, controls are still being carried out.” Although the elevated train in Hamburg, for example, does not carry out checks on the stairway to prevent people from getting stuck. The inspectors are still traveling on trains and buses. With a face mask, of course.