New York, May 6 (efe-epa).- The New York subway, which has regularly offered uninterrupted 24/7 service, closed on Tuesday night for the first time for several hours so that workers could thoroughly disinfect all the cars in use with an eye toward preventing potential coronavirus infection of riders, a situation that also allowed authorities to shelter 139 homeless people.
Subway operations ceased between 1 am and 5 am as workers cleaned floors, walls, railings, doors, windows and seats so that essential workers – the only people allowed to be using public transport in the Big Apple these days – can travel safely to their jobs.
On April 30, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that starting on Tuesday the subway system would be closed each day for four hours during the early morning, after images of homeless people camped out in the cars caused a stir in the city and led many to question the hygienic conditions on board the trains.
Mayor Bill de Blasio referred specifically to those homeless people on Wednesday in applauding the work of the social services and police, saying that so much success in a single night had never been seen before in dealing with the homeless and adding that a “high percentage” of those approached had accepted the authorities’ shelter offer.
According to the mayor, 139 of the 252 homeless people who live permanently in the city’s underground facilities accepted the offer of shelter, adding that federal surveys have found that 3,500-4,000 people live on New York’s streets and in the metro facilities.
Cuomo said, meanwhile, that the measure was unprecedented and the idea of disinfecting all subway cars on a daily basis is something that had been thought to be “virtually impossible” until very recently.
He said that local authorities were doing things that have never been done before, all in the name of protecting the health of essential workers.
Use of the subway system by New Yorkers plunged after local authorities prohibited all non-essential activities in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19 and the number of passengers riding the trains dived by 90 percent.
The loudspeakers and digital screens at the subway stations remind New Yorkers that the public transportation network is being reserved for the exclusive use of people deemed to be essential workers and instruct everyone else to remain in their homes until the quarantine is lifted.