by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Cuban drivers from the Guanabo bus station on the outskirts of the capital city of Havana received around 1,000 face masks donated by China's Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co. to help minimize the risk of infection during the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Jorge Hernandez, who has been driving buses in Havana's metropolitan area for nearly 40 years, said the donation is welcome due to the high demand for face masks among people working in public transportation.
The 59-year-old bus driver said that wearing a face mask while driving is something he could not have ever imagined. "Yutong is not only taking care of the maintenance and technical conditions of the buses we drive, but also helping us keep safe during the pandemic," he said.
Like Hernandez, close to 80 drivers from the Guanabo bus station start work early in the morning to transport health professionals and essential service workers.
Havana's provincial public transport company has acquired around 1,080 Yutong buses, nearly 700 of which have active routes in the city of 2 million people during the COVID-19 emergency.
"China has had the capacity to look far beyond our health system and has provided a helping hand to different sectors of Cuban society," said Migdalia Aguero, 48, a Cuban nurse on board a Yutong shuttle bus in Havana.
Oscar Naury, 56, general director of the Guanabo bus station, said that during the coronavirus outbreak, no more than 20 people are allowed on board the buses at a time, and the use of face masks is compulsory for both drivers and passengers.
Workers at the Guanabo bus station have also implemented disinfecting procedures, including a rigorous handwashing process, cleaning surfaces, and disinfecting doors, seats, and other areas frequently touched by passengers.
"We clean the buses early in the morning and late at night, and use virus-killing disinfectant. There are many things we can still learn from China about disinfecting protocols," he said, adding that buses made by Yutong Bus Co. are comfortable and meet Cuban passengers' needs.
Cuba suspended national bus, air, and train travel across the country in the second half of March and subsequently prohibited public transportation from functioning in metropolitan and rural areas in early April as part of a governmental strategy to curb the spread of the epidemic.
Yutong Bus Co. has started to distribute around 100, 000 face masks to public transportation workers at nearly 20 bus stations to which the Chinese company provides technical assistance in the Cuban capital.
Wang Tong, head of the company's branch in Cuba, has been handing out face masks to local bus station personnel and getting insight into the protocols they have adopted to combat the coronavirus.
"These face masks will help protect drivers and passengers from contracting the virus. We are committed to the wellbeing of workers in the public transportation sector in Cuba," she said.
Full buses have become a common feature in everyday life in Havana due to economic restrictions and the U.S. blockade against the island, which bars the Caribbean nation from acquiring vehicle parts from the U.S. market.
Cuba has imported more than 10,700 Yutong buses since 2005, and these vehicles transport 80 percent of passengers on the island and also benefit the tourism sector.
According to Yutong Bus Co., among the company's plans for a post COVID-19 scenario in Cuba is the continued introduction of hybrid and electric buses and the support of the country's efforts to save fuel in the public transportation sector.
Yutong Bus Co. is celebrating its 15th anniversary on the island this year, the very same year China and Cuba are marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. Enditem