WHILE health experts warn of the public transport’s high potential to increase the transmission of COVID-19, bus operators and passengers in most parts of Dar es Salaam are hardly paying attention to the big threat around them.
Overcrowded bus stops during rush hours, and buses packed to the brim remain a common facet of the public transportation in Dar es Salaam, the country’s most populated region, with an estimation of 6.7 inhabitants.
According to the Land Transport Regulatory Authority (LATRA), Mbagala and Gongolamboto routes to and from other parts of the country’s commercial city remain the most worrying directions as far as the prevention of coronavirus is concerned.
The government warned recently that public transport sub-sector is one of the conduits in which the virus could spread, given the number of people using it on a daily basis.
And looking to combat spread of the COVID-19 in the country, the LATRA was directed by the government to take deliberate measures in collaboration with bus operators to curb the spread of the novel virus, which has claimed over around 20,000 lives across the world.
One of the interventions taken by Authority is to prevent overcrowding in buses—as that would help avoid direct body contacts that increase the chances of contracting the virus.
But the directive is apparently ignored especially by operators and passengers of commuter buses plying from Gongolamboto and Mbagala to other parts of the city, LATRA Director General Mr Gilliard Ngewe noted.
A survey by this paper also showed that a chunky number of commuter buses in the city are ignoring the rules set by the government to protect them, as public transport was still packed with commuters.
Speaking to the ‘Daily News’ in a telephone interview, Mr Ngewe said the authority has already formed a committee comprising members from different sectors within the industry to oversee the implementation of the safety measures as proposed by health experts.
The committee is chaired by the Head of Police Traffic Department Fortunatus Muslim and it has members from Tanzania Bus Owners Association (TABOA), health officers from all municipal councils, Local government authorities and Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (DARCOBOA), and the Association of Transporters in Dar es Salaam (Uwadar), he said.
Right now, he said, they are controlling the number of people boarding Usafiri Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (UDART) buses, while warning commuter busses across the country should also carry passengers according to their seat capacities.
“It’s a cross cutting issue that needs participation of all members of the community, the agency cannot do everything alone if there is no response from the general public,” he said, urging Mbagala and Gongo la Mboto residents to adhere to the instructions for their own safety.
Similarly, the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC) Mr Paul Makonda reminded passengers to adhere to all preventive measures, including washing hands with clean and safe water as well as being sanitized before boarding in any public transport.
He insisted that the city dwellers must avoid overcrowding in commuter buses in a bid to curb the deadly virus.
“Sometimes, it’s good and wise to be late than rushing in a bus that is overcrowded. Beating this virus needs the collaboration of authorities and every member of the society,” noted Mr Makonda.
Over the weekend, the Dar Rapid Transit (DART) Agency, looking to curb the coronavirus outbreak, started instituting measures to avoid congestion in buses by limiting the number of passengers.
Other measures included, introducing queues of passengers boarding the buses as well as increasing the number of buses operating on trunk routes by relocating those plying on feeder routes especially Kimara and Mbezi areas.
It has also set up hand -washing facilities at the major bus stations to allow passengers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before getting onto buses.
So far, Tanzania reported to have recorded 12 cases of COVID-19, with the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ms Ummy Mwalimu saying all patients were doing fine, and that the first patient Isabela Mwampamba has tested negative three times.
Globally, as of yesterday, there were around 436,623 cases with the number of deaths reaching 19,644; this is according to the statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO).