Visakhapatnam: The surge in COVID-19 cases does not prevent anyone from traveling to their hometown to be with their family and friends during the Sankranti festival. As trains and bus stations see heavy crowds, hundreds of people are avoiding public transport and sharing taxis or taking their own cars to stay safe.
At the start of the festival, all National Highways (NH) have been packed with vehicles since Saturday night, with families heading from Telangana to various parts of Andhra Pradesh. Worried about crowds on public transport and the spread of the virus, those traveling with the elderly and children are traveling by road.
Andhra Pradesh reported 4,348 new cases on January 13. In recent days, daily positive cases are increasing especially in Visakhapatnam, Chittoor and Krishna districts.
No COVID tests are carried out at the border, which has raised concerns about the spread of the virus. Additionally, health officials expect to see more cases after the festival and are urging the public to avoid crowded places and wear masks when out and about.
“We heard about the COVID explosion from those who traveled by train in recent days. Worried about the situation, we decided to go with our own car to Vijayawada,” said Sumana, from Hyderabad.
The spike in COVID-19 cases has given taxi drivers an opportunity to scam people. From Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam, taxis charge around Rs. 7,000. “Worried that our parents might be infected, the four of us decided to share a car. It was a better option given the huge increase in COVID-19 cases,” said Sravan, a software employee in Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, the PA Department of Transportation continues to conduct checks on private buses to prevent violations, including collecting excess fares and operating tax-free and permit-free. During checks in some districts, officials found that many private buses operated with a single driver and additional passengers.
There are about 700 private buses registered in Andhra Pradesh and 600 buses registered in Telangana that run between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Another 300-500 buses run specifically for weddings and tours.