In a one-of-a-kind exercise, buses will undergo swab tests to detect Covid-19 and other viruses like H1N1, swine flu and influenza on ‘common touch’ surfaces like handles and window rods. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) will trace and test these viruses by collecting swabs from around 10,000 vehicles that were sprayed with antimicrobial coating earlier this month.
The MSRTC has 16,000 buses in its fleet, out of which 10,000 were sprayed with antimicrobial coating. In the second coronavirus wave, villages and towns were badly affected, further impacting functionality of MSRTC buses, which are their lifeline.
The MSRTC has spent more than Rs 9.5 crore on antimicrobial coating at the cost of Rs 9,500 per bus. These buses will be sprayed in two phases; the first coating will be sprayed once in six months while the second coating every two months. Two firms have been identified for the same, wherein one will apply coating two times a year, while the other will do it six times annually.
A third party will check the efficacy by taking surface swabs. As per the process, chemical agents are sprayed on surfaces to prevent the growth of microbes like viruses, bacteria and fungi. These would be sprayed on the seats, hand rests, windows, guard rails, driver’s cabin, flooring, rubber glazing, doors and luggage compartments.
“The probable cost of a swab test will be around Rs 200-Rs 300 per bus. The swabs will be sent to the designated laboratory by a third party for which tenders have been called. Following this, we will verify the efficacy of the coating,” said an official from MSRTC.
The authorities will collect 9,000 swabs in one year. There are 31 divisions that encompass operations of 250-plus MSRTC depots. Each division has a team that oversees multiple depots; they would also monitor the process once swabs are collected. The ridership count of MSRTC has fallen from 65 lakh every day prior to the pandemic to 20-22 lakh passengers post-pandemic.
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