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The World's Cities Get Ready To Take Public Transport Again

Fewer seats, fewer trains, more masks. A quick world tour from Milan to Paris, Beijing to Tehran finds the wheels (tentatively) ready to roll on subways and buses.

Inside Milan metro
Inside Milan metro

As countries loosen lockdown restrictions, one key to getting life and the economy back up and running is how to be sure people can (safely) get around.

Cities in particular face the tricky puzzle of public transportation in the face of the acutely contagious nature of COVID-19. How can people respect social distancing inside packed buses and subways? But as the clamor to restart shutdown economies grows louder, countries and cities are busy implementing new rules. Here is how four major cities around the world are adapting public transports:

  • Milan: The capacity of the Italian city's subway will be reduced by up to 30%, carrying just around 350,000 passengers a day instead of 1.3 million, reports Corriere della Sera. The access to train and metro stations will also be controlled and limited from May 4, when the lockdown starts to loosen. The city is also testing solutions to help people respecting social distancing, like putting red stickers on the floor to tell them how far apart to stand. Many seats will be removed as well, which will divide by two the numbers of passengers in the same car.

  • Paris: France recently unveiled its plans to gradually end the lockdown beginning May 11, including new rules for the RATP, the state-owned public transport operator in the region of Paris and its daily 12 million travelers. Like in Milan, the use of face masks will be compulsory and markings on the ground will be used to make passengers respect safety distances. But contrary to the Italian city, traffic will increase. For Prime Minister Edouard Philippe public transport is a "key measure for the economic recovery" and therefore, he required the RATP to increase traffic to 70%, as it had been functioning at only 30% of its capacity in March and April, according to Le Parisien.

A staff member disinfecting a subway train carriage in Beijing — Photo: Chen Zeguo/Xinhua/ZUMA

  • Beijing: Beijing metro was one of the firsts to test high-resolution sensing cameras which can identify whether passengers are wearing masks. Now the Chinese capital is lowering its restrictions from the top level to the second level starting April 30 and is going to increase traffic in public transportation. According to Xinhua, the maximum allowable passenger capacity will be raised from 50% of full capacity to 75% on buses and to 65% on subway trains. However, the buses and subway carriages will still need to be disinfected and ventilated regularly and all passengers will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken. Eating in public transport has also been banned, as Beijing has implemented a new set of regulations to promote "civilized behaviour" and improve public hygiene.

  • Tehran: As the Iranian capital increasingly returns to work, the head Tehran's anti-coronavirus task force, Alireza Zaali, estimated that 570,000 people using public transport each day, ILNA reported. But in a separate report, the agency cited Zaali as saying that only half of metro passengers are currently using masks and gloves. The city council is debating the "mechanics' of enforcing the obligatory use of face masks, the daily Hamshahri reported. Some have suggested the government sell cheap masks to transport users at metro stations and bus terminals.

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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