The government has revised the protocol that saw mini buses reducing their maximum ridership from 18 to nine passengers.
Speaking on radio on Wednesday, Gonsalves said that the number of passengers in an 18-seater van would now be increased to 12.
This arrangement would be in effect for a month before being reassessed.
The prime minister said the arrangement was agreed with the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) during a meeting on Tuesday.
“In all the circumstances, we believe that with the children coming back [to school] on Monday … we agreed that we would encourage the wearing of the masks, it is not compulsory in the vehicles,” Gonsalves said.
Students who are taking school-leaving examinations — Grades 6, Forms 5, and technical institutions — will return to the classroom on Monday amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Education said in a separate statement on Wednesday that it anticipates a sage reopening of schools amidst the pandemic.
Gonsalves said that in his meeting with VINTAS, he indicated his government’s decision to change the law.
“… when this month is over, we don’t go back to 18 seats, we go to 14 seats so that persons can function in relative comfort,” the prime minister said.
The prime minister said that on Thursday and Friday of this week, the Traffic Department will enforce the 12-passenger protocol and would be “very tough” on operators who are not sanitising their buses.
“You can’t wash your bus at night and then you do five, six, seven trips [without further cleaning.] … As soon as you do one, two trips, the bus needs cleaning already,” the prime minister said.
“The traffic police have been very lenient and they haven’t taken anybody to the court,” he said, adding that the police, however, took a number of buses off the road last Friday.
“… and when they took them off the road and they keep them for a while, it means that you lose revenue. I mean — it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, just co-operate nuh! We’re all in this thing together and it’s basic at the time of the pandemic that we must have cleanliness, hygienic conditions,” Gonsalves said.
Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared by the Word Health Organization, Gonsalves said his government “has dropped the price for gasoline between EC$2.30 and EC$2.50 per gallon — a big number”.
The price of fuel on the international market has fallen significantly over the past few months.
Gonsalves said: “There are some countries which have not reduced, they kept the savings for the consolidated funds and some countries have actually increased the price of the fuel.”
In March, government decreased the price of fuel by EC$1 and made a similar reduction on Friday.
Gasoline now retails at EC$10.47 per gallon, diesel, for EC$9.30 and low sulphur diesel for EC$9.29.
Gonsalves said St. Vincent and the Grenadines has the lowest prices for gasoline and diesel in CARICOM after Trinidad and Tobago, which refines the oil.
Meanwhile, in a press statement on Wednesday, police said that the recommended number of passengers for the 25- and 29-seater omnibuses have been increased to 18 and 21, respectively.
Head of the Traffic Branch, Superintendent of Police, Kenneth John said the traffic officers will be “clamping down on any sort of delinquency to ensure the safety of commuters travelling on public service vehicles and the general public as a whole”.
He further stated that the protocols and guidelines as stipulated by the Ministry of Health should be followed and all public service vehicles should be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition according to the traffic regulations.