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TRANSPORT SECTOR HURTING

Covid-19: Allow long-distance travel but under guidelines

WE need to ensure those depending on this sector are protected while keeping the safety and precautionary measures a priority.

In Summary

• Just as it was done in the hotel industry, the government needs to sit down with long-distance transport operators to discuss ways to reopen the industry and ease public movement and businesses.

• In the transport sector, the measures would include cleaning and disinfecting booking offices, waiting bays, fleets and frequently touched surfaces.

Matatus along Accra Road in Nairobi
Matatus along Accra Road in Nairobi
Image: FILE

Many countries have responded to coronavirus outbreak by enforcing lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus, including Kenya.

However, public transport remains a vital service that has to keep functioning and while at it, take every precaution to protect the passengers, drivers, conductors and the general public.

Among the measures the government has introduced is the cessation of movement in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area and the counties of Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale and Mandera. This directive has had negative effects on Kenyans,  especially long-distance public service vehicle operators, their employees and their dependants.

 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced the partial reopening of hotels and restaurants but with strict guidelines. Just as it was done in the hotel industry, the government needs to sit down with long-distance transport operators to discuss ways to reopen the industry and ease public movement and businesses.

Coronavirus is a highly infectious disease. The main advice to prevent its spread is to practice stringent hygiene measures. Even when restrictions are lifted, there are likely to be more waves of coronavirus infections as people come into contact with others, so we all have to stay vigilant and continue using hygienic practices.

In the transport sector, the measures would include cleaning and disinfecting booking offices, waiting bays, fleets and frequently touched surfaces.

Poor hand hygiene is a particular problem because people frequently cough and sneeze into their hands or touch their mouth or nose, providing a ready means to spread the coronavirus to everything they touch. The virus can be transferred to other people when they touch a contaminated surface and become infected when they touch their mouth, nose or eyes.

Studies in offices have shown that germs can spread from an infected person to the entire office in 2–4 hours via contaminated touchpoints. They all need regular cleaning and disinfecting with approved products to ensure protection from infection.

MEASURES TO CONSIDER

Before fully re-opening the sector, long-distance transport operators will need to ask themselves the following questions:

 

 How quickly can I get my business up and running again? Are the booking offices and waiting bays virus-free? What hygiene procedures and virus control measures do I need to put in place immediately? How do I develop a strategy to implement robust hygiene standards in my organisation? What do I need to do to comply with changing regulations and how do I safeguard against re-infections? And are all my fleets safe for use?

You may have cleaners who do regular cleaning of the fleets and the company offices but controlling a highly infectious virus causing a pandemic requires a higher level of expertise and control measures that only a professional service can provide.

Towards this end, I propose for consideration of the following by the sector. 

That only long-distance operators with physical booking offices will be allowed to operate; vehicles be barred from picking and dropping passengers in overcrowded areas such as bus stations and that only designated and uniformed employees with a badge be allowed to operate — no touting.

Matatu drivers should be subjected to mandatory testing before the re-opening of the sector, all passengers must wear facemasks and PSVs must be disinfected before and after every trip.

All PSVs must also be presented for inspection at various NTSA stations.

Manual methods are the first choice to disinfect surfaces, but for combating airborne pathogens and disinfecting large areas that require rapid re-entry of treated areas, fogging is an ideal solution.

Additional measures should be implemented such as tracking of passengers through a detailed register which every vehicle should have.

It will include a record of all passengers, their ID/passport numbers, phone numbers, and all pickup and drop points.

While we acknowledge that a lot has changed and much more will change, we should also be alive to the fact that we are a growing economy. The Kenya Vision 2030 aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialising middle-Income country by this year.

The transport sector contributes 5-15 per cent of Kenya’s GDP and we need to ensure those depending on this sector are protected while keeping the safety and precautionary measures a priority.

Yogo is the director, Pride Executive Shuttles Ltd