OTTAWA -- Buses across the OC Transpo fleet will be getting permanent barriers to protect bus drivers starting this week.

According to a memo from Transportation Services General Manager John Manconi, the installation of more than 750 barriers is underway and should be finished by August. The barriers will prevent access to the bus driver area, protecting drivers from physical harm and interference, but also from viruses such as COVID-19.

Transit commission approved the $6 million project last year. The approval came just days after a driver was punched by a rider.

These new permanent fixtures will replace the temporary barriers installed at the start of the pandemic.

There are 95 older buses that will not receive these new barriers as they will be reaching the end of their life cycle by the end of 2021, Manconi said, but any new buses added to the fleet will come with the barriers already installed.

Twelve buses had the permanent barriers installed in 2019 as part of a pilot project.

More than 100 OC Transpo employees, including bus drivers, and other staff members, have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. There is a push by the Amalgamated Transit Union to have transit operators prioritized in the first two of two groups of priority workers scheduled to receive COVID-19 vaccines in May and June.