A bus driver shortage in regions east of the GTA forced school bus companies to cancel nearly 200 routes serving 43 different schools on Monday.

The Student Transportation Company of Central Ontario (STCO) says various companies advised them of the need to outright cancel dozens of routes serving 43 elementary and secondary schools in areas including Clarington, Bowmanville, Courtice, Cobourg, Port Hope, Newcastle, Norwood and Campbellford.

A total of 199 morning and afternoon routes to the schools were cancelled on Monday.

Elsewhere in Ontario, student transportation companies in Toronto, York, Peel and Waterloo reported some delays, but not outright cancellations.

STCO says the cancellations are due to an ongoing bus driver shortage in the region. The body that oversees school buses in Ottawa reported similar cancellations due to a "severe bus driver shortage."

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Andrea Horwath called Monday for school bus capacity to be halved to ensure physical distancing about buses.

"Doug Ford’s bargain-basement scheme for education includes him putting as many as 70 students on a bus together, packed in like sardines,” Horwath said Monday. “How can they physically distance when they’re shoulder-to-shoulder, three to a seat? How can a bus driver make sure they’re keeping their masks on when she’s got her eyes focused on the road?

Ontario's school reopening guidelines call for siblings to sit together aboard buses, while students without siblings should sit with their grade or class cohort if possible.

The plan also included $40 million to hire additional school bus drivers and provide them with personal protective equipment.