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Social distancing is being encouraged but is no longer required on public transport in Western Australia, but passengers are staying away despite the reopening of workplaces this week.
WA's daily number of Transperth SmartRider trips fell off a cliff once social distancing and lockdown measures were enforced by the Government to curb the transmission of coronavirus.
Now, West Australians are being encouraged to return to their workplaces and to use public transport to get there, and maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others only if possible — something that will be challenging if trains and buses start operating at peak capacity.
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said while it was encouraged, social distancing was not something that was now required on public transport.
"The advice from the Chief Health Officer of Western Australia is that while we try and encourage [people] to keep a distance, it's not something that's going to be enforced, and it's just basically not something that is required for public transport," she said.
"Like all health advice it's basically saying 'where you can, keep your distance,' but understanding that to actually run an effective economy we're having to start normalising in many instances. So we're really just looking at managing the risk."
The Minister said the Government was continuing increased cleaning of train carriages, buses and trains — a measure brought in at the start of the pandemic.
Anonymised Google mobility data shows West Australians reduced their travel to many places during the outbreak, but public transport stations were hardest hit.
Ms Saffioti said despite the drop in patronage, she expected people to return as things normalised.
"Across the world, the patterns are road usage increases, and then there is a lag to public transport. We've seen that here in Western Australia," she said.
"Currently our roads are running about 10 per cent less than what they were pre-COVID, so already we're running up to about 90 per cent of pre-COVID traffic numbers, while public transport's 40 per cent."
How fast is coronavirus growing around the world
Days since 100th case4060801001201001k10k100k1MCumulative known casessince 100th caseAustraliaBrazilChinaIndiaJapanMexicoRussiaSwedenUSS. KoreaNZTaiwanUK
This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means — and how COVID-19 cases are spreading around the world.Perth commuters remain cautiousBut there are questions over whether passenger numbers will go back up to pre-coronavirus levels in the medium term.
Commuter Wanita Webb, who said she travelled between East Perth and Fremantle for her job, said passengers had been very mindful of social distancing, but things had started to get busier in the past week.
Wanita Webb takes the train from East Perth to Fremantle and back for work.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)"It is starting to pick up a little bit. If you leave a space between each person you're not going to be guaranteed a seat, so there is that standing option and you do have to touch that pole which is a little bit gross," she said.
She said while she felt safe getting on the trains at the moment, she may take more precautions if things became busier.
"I think if a second wave hits and it's bad, I think I'll rethink my whole mask situation," she said.
"I'll start wearing one and I'll maybe use gloves as well. But I haven't really taken any precautions so far."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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