The government and the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) on Monday announced that they have reached an agreement on an economic support package in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VINTAS is a 200-member group representing the interest of stakeholders in the land transportation sector.
In a press release on Monday, the group, which was founded in September 2018, urged omnibus operators and commuters to adhere to the government’s recommendation to reduce the number of passengers in omnibuses from 18 to 12 or three passengers per row.
“This measure is temporary and represents the commitment of omnibus operators to minimize the risks in spreading the COVID-19 virus,” the group noted.
The group said that at a meeting with the government on Monday, the government agreed that omnibus operators will be given a stipend for two months in the first instance beginning in April 2020.
The stipend will be between EC$250 and EC$300 and the registration process for collection of the stipend and the amount to be collected will be determined by the Government after further consultation with the Ministry of Finance, VINTAS said.
Further, gasoline was reduced from EC$12.97 to EC$11.97 per gallon and the price of diesel was reduced from EC$11.79 to EC$10.79 per gallon, effective March 23.
Gas and diesel prices are to be further reduced within the next three weeks, the group said.
The meeting also agreed that all vans will be sanitised by the Ministry of Health at two designated, centralised locations in Kingstown at least twice daily.
The details are to be fine-tuned and communicated to the omnibus operators.
The statement said that omnibus operators who are credit/loan customers of certain banks and credit unions may also be eligible for a loan repayment moratorium.
“Omnibus operators are encouraged to contact their banks or credit unions to clarify what support they may be eligible to receive,” the statement said.
“VINTAS affirmed that the Association is willing and ready to co-operate with the Government in implementing measures that would forestall and prevent the community spread of the pernicious COVID-19 virus, commonly called the Novel Corona Virus.”
On Monday, Burton Williams, president of VINTAS, told iWitness News that since its formation, the group has been actively participating, at the invitation of the government, with the Ministry of Transport and Works on the revision of the Road Traffic Bill.
“The association has the full support of the minibus owners, drivers and conductors and is committed to working assiduously to fully represent their best interest,” Williams said.