Horseman Coaches has defended its reasons for drivers not wearing PPE while picking up repatriated Britons flown in from China last week.
Following some media reports questioning the safety of the drivers, Director James Horseman tells routeone that its drivers and coaches pose no danger to customers.
The operator issued a statement on its Facebook page and website, attaching an official letter from Public Health England (PHE) confirming that Horseman Coaches poses no risk to public health.
Mr Horseman says the operator was proud to be the “first port of call” for the British government. “We felt privileged,” he adds. “Our ethos is, if you can help, you have a duty to help.”
Mr Horseman explains that it was made clear to the business that passengers had all been screened and temperature checked before boarding the coaches.
He says: “We were told that passengers were only required to wear masks and were slightly disappointed that some of the medics were in full protective gear.
“Because they were seen behind the driver – to the wider world and media – it looked like the passengers were dressed like that.
“It turns out they were heart specialists and had to be in full protective gear as they were due at work the next day and couldn’t be quarantined.”
Seven drivers were asked if they were prepared to do the job of picking up the Britons arriving on the evacuation flight into RAF Brize Norton. They were all willing, and happy to wear PPE equipment if needed.
However, a government decision was taken that they didn’t need to wear it, based on a risk assessment conducted by the Department for Health and PHE.
It also said that drivers wearing PPE while driving posed a greater risk to the safety of passengers.
During the repatriation the passengers had no direct contact with any of Horseman’s drivers and officials from PHE were on hand to supervise and manage the situation at all times.
There was a 2m cordon around every coach and the driver boarded last. It was stipulated that there must be five clear rows between any passenger and the driver.
Mr Horseman stresses: “I was privy to all of the checks and satisfied that my drivers were in no danger at all.”
The drivers have been given 10 days paid leave and are at home under quarantine conditions. Mr Horseman says he is in regular contact with them and they are fit and well.
The vehicles involved have been through a military grade cleansing process. Bacteria can only live for six hours and the coaches have had a six-hour wet clean with an anti-bacterial fogging process. Special chemicals have been used to clean the toilets and the filters on the air vents have been changed.
They are now in a secure lockup where they will remain until 14 days after the event.
Mr Horseman says: “It is important that our customers know that the coaches that will be carrying their children to school this week are categorically not the vehicles used in the repatriation – or the drivers
“The health and safety of our passengers and staff has always been and will always remain our number one priority.”