Staying safe on public transport during COVID-19

Written by: Melanie Wong

For many Australians, working from home has become the norm of 2020. But for some workers, this isn’t an option; essential workers such as healthcare staff and those who work in grocery stores have not been given the luxury of WFH. While it is recommended by NSW transport to avoid public transport if possible, buses and trains can be the only way for some individuals to get to work. So, what’s the best way to stay safe while commuting?

Avoid touching surfaces

This may seem like a given but it’s important to avoid touching surfaces like handrails or Opal gates. Virus droplets that land on plastic or metal can stay on the surface for approximately three days, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Of course, you should wash your hands for 20 seconds after going out.

Change clothes as soon as you get home

If you’re not holding any handrails on public transport, you’re probably sitting down. While this point is mainly for those who may have come in contact with infectious droplets, it can still be relevant for you if you want to be extra cautious. It’s unclear exactly how long the virus can stay on clothing due to the variety of materials used in clothing so once you’ve changed clothes, wash them using warm water and laundry detergent.

Avoid overcrowding

This applies to both vehicles and the platforms or bus stops you are waiting at. According to the new rule ‘no dot, no spot’, NSW public transport will have marked green dots for commuters to sit or stand and it’s important for you to follow these instructions. Stay 1.5m away from people and if possible, open windows to improve ventilation. We do know that NSW transport have introduced an additional 3100 weekly bus services and 250 weekly train services.

Travel at off-peak hours

It’s important to limit your contact with people as much as you can and the best way to do so on public transport is to travel between 10am and 2pm, or off-peak hours. This may not be possible for some people working on particular shifts but changing your work hours, so that you start later and end later or start earlier and end earlier, can avoid congested commutes.

Try to find alternatives to public transport

If possible, try to cycle or drive to work, as well as carpooling with family members who may also have school or work.

It’s not uncommon for people to feel anxious during the pandemic but this anxiety may be heightened by public commutes. For those who have no other choice, try to distract yourself while commuting, such as using music or reading, and take steps that will reduce your anxiety no matter how excessive they may seem. If washing your clothes every day or wearing a face mask (though this is not recommended unless you are feeling unwell) makes you feel less anxious, then do so. It is difficult to predict what will happen next during this pandemic, but it is crucial for communities to support each other, to be kind and to understand that everyone is going through varying degrees of difficulty. With restrictions in NSW continuing to ease over the next few weeks, the light at the end of the tunnel is drawing closer.

For more information on public transport in NSW, please visit you or someone you know has been struggling with mental health, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can reach out to one of the help lines below –
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

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