Visakhapatnam: The spurt in COVID-19 cases isn't stopping anyone from traveling to their hometowns to be with their family and friends during the Sankranti festival. With trains and bus stations witnessing a heavy rush, hundreds of people are avoiding public transport and are sharing cabs or taking their own cars to stay safe.

As the festival starts, all National Highways (NH) are jam-packed with vehicles since Saturday night, with families heading from Telangana to various parts of Andhra Pradesh. Worried about the crowds in public transports and the spread of the virus, those traveling with the elderly and children are travelling by road.

Andhra Pradesh reported 4,348 new cases on 13 January. In the last few days, the daily positive cases are increasing especially in Visakhapatnam, Chittoor, and Krishna districts.

No COVID tests are being conducted at the border which has spurred fear about the spread of the virus. Also, health officials are expecting to see more cases post-festival and are urging the public to avoid crowded places and wear masks when moving about.

"We have been hearing about the COVID explosion from those who have traveled by train in the last few days. Worried about the situation, we decided to go by our own car to Vijayawada," said Sumana, a native of Hyderabad.

The spike in COVID-19 cases has given cab drivers an opportunity to fleece people. From Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam, the cabs are charging around Rs. 7,000. "Worried that our parents might get infected, the four of us decided to share a car. It was a better option given the huge spike in COVID-19 cases," said Sravan, a software employee in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, the AP transport department continues to conduct checks on private buses to prevent violations, including collecting excess fares and plying without tax and permit. During the checks at some of the districts, officials found that many private buses were running with only one drive and extra passengers.

There are around 700 private buses registered in Andhra Pradesh and 600 buses registered in Telangana which ply between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Another 300-500 buses run especially booked for marriages and tours.

Sri Lakshmi Muttevi

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