Commuter Omnibuses poses risk of re-triggering the pandemic

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By Perseverance Javangwe

The operation of illegal commuter omnibuses is now a cause for concern in Kwekwe with commuter omnibus operators failing to observe the corona virus regulations as required by the World Health Organisation guidelines.

A survey conducted by this reporter showed that kombi drivers and their assistants are no longer wearing masks. They do not have sanitisers and the passengers have also adopted that culture which is beginning to multiply, and this begs the question, is the covid-19 non-existent now? But, in recent weeks confirmed cases have been surging.

This reporter board a kombi from Msasa Park to town. There were 18passengers inside without observing social distance. Out of the 18 passengers only three people were wearing masks while the rest did not have including the driver and his assistant.

When this reporter inquired about why the driver and his assistant were operating in such a risk way, the response was that of being ignorant.

“Mukoma ndozvinenge zvichitoripo izvozvo. Kana imi muchiwona zvisingakuitirii kupinda muno munongorega. Isu tiri pakutsvaka mari nekuti zvinhu zvakawoma. Yenyu yema mask iyi mkoma neyenyu saka pfekai henyu imi. Isu covid chero ikatibata tinongorarama (We do what we feel if fine with us here. If you don’t feel the need to be in here you are free to find another transport. Even if I contract the virus today I will still heal so you can wear your mask and leave us alone,” said the kombi assistant who could not be named.
This is the mentality that most of these commuter operators have when they are going about their work. They don’t care about what will happen to the passengers, all they want is money. They do not think about the health of their passengers.

Roseline Maradzike, a passenger who was sited next to this reporter said that the ZUPCO transport is scarce and this drives people to board these health risk commuter omnibuses.

“After work people want to get home fast and the challenge is that the ZUPCO buses are very few. Therefore, we are left without an option except to get to these illegally operating kombis so that we get home early. Kwekwe is a dangerous place and we don’t want to get home late otherwise we risk our lives to mashurugwis who are terrorizing the city. So, yes the kombis are not safe but it’s not also safe to arrive home late and what option do we have? Either risk contracting covid-19 or mashurugwis, you just have to pick your poison,” she said.

Speaking in an interview with this reporter analyst Robert Nhari stated that there is need for the police enforcers to play their role in making sure that motorists and passengers adhere to the covid-19 regulations before it’s to late.

“It is rather better to be safe than sorry. Firstly, I think some of these illegal kombi operators need monitoring on the roads because most of them are just ignorant. This will, however, affect us in the long run because we are the ones who use those commuter buses. If the police and can get back on the roads and make sure motorists are observing the regulations that will be better.

“Secondly, as far as I Know these kombis have been barred on the roads with the government stating that only ZUPCO buses will ferry passengers, I don’t know why we are letting them operate in the first place, so these are some of the things I feel should be addressed with urgency before it’s too late,” said Nhari.

This comes after the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works had in recent weeks raised fears that illegally operating transporters ferrying passengers could re-trigger the pandemic. In a statement received by this reporter the government has warned illegal operators to observe the law.

“The Government strongly advises the private operators and the public, that urban transport services for the carriage of passengers, is restricted to those provided by the Zimbabwe United Passengers Company (ZUPCO) as provided for in Section 2(a) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order 2020.

“This is a Health induced Transport Strategy, that is meant to ensure that the further spread of COVID 19 is contained. The country is not yet out of the woods, since we still have cases of COVID 19. The regulations were put in place to Prevent, Contain, and Treat COVID 19, are not meant to disadvantage those who invested in the Transport, or any other sector, but to ensure that the objectives of the regulations are met,” read the Ministry’s statement.

Meanwhile, speaking during the launch of the Health Expo and Covid-19 pandemic awareness cycling campaign in Bulawayo’s Makokoba high density suburb, Vice President, who is also the Health Minister Dr Constantine Chiwenga urged Zimbabweans to continue practicing Covid-19 prevention measures.

“…some of our people, in their wisdom, decided to engage a relaxed mode. It has become a common feature to catch sight of some of our brothers and sisters disregarding wearing of masks. If they wear them at all most of them are left sagging like a necklace.

“Scientists have said the virus targets easily those with weaker health systems, but I say it preys more on ignorance, denial and wishful thinking. Remember to cover your nose and the mouth. I have also noticed that some of our citizens no longer respect the observance of the one meter social distancing. some of our people, in their wisdom, decided to engage a relaxed mode. It has become a common feature to catch sight of some of our brothers and sisters disregarding wearing of masks.

“If they wear them at all most of them are left sagging like a necklace. Scientists have said the virus targets easily those with weaker health systems, but I say it preys more on ignorance, denial and wishful thinking.

Remember to cover your nose and the mouth. I have also noticed that some of our citizens no longer respect the observance of the one metre social distancing,” he said as quoted by a local paper.

Covid-19 cases have been on the increase in recent weeks and with illegal commuter omnibuses operating without observing the regulations people health personal in Kwekwe fear this might affect the city.


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