The debate on whether or not to fully resume public service vehicle travel is an ongoing one. Some say it’s a ticking time bomb with the country recording a surge in new infections, while others believe that COVID-19 protocols should be strictly enforced by operators and passengers alike before this happens again. A recent spot-check of some PSVs has revealed that many people are failing to follow these important guidelines, which only adds more fuel to the fire for those who want them banned from driving until further notice
As I walk past the Railways Bus Stop, it’s all about survival for those who can push their way to board one of the moving matatus. The crew and passengers seem to have thrown caution out of the window as they allow themselves to be repeatedly sprayed by persons wearing masks with serious respiratory problems; hand washing points are nowhere in sight either. All this is replicated at a major bus stop around Central Business District too- operators endangering lives by failing follow coronavirus containment measures set forth
This happening as matatus will now be allowed to carry full capacity as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, the directive attracting mixed opinions as Nairobi continues to bear the highest caseload of the new infections.
Samuel Kiprop, a Nairobi resident, said, “Naonelea si vyema kwa sababu idadi inaendelea kuongezeka ya corona na mimi kama mwananchi nitaumia juu sina pesa ya kujitibu.”
“Naona imesaidia sana sana abiria kama mimi ambao hutembea sana kuenda kutafuta vitu, kwa sababu sasa ulikuwa unapata ile wakati wanabeba less capacity walikuwa wanatuumiza sana,” stated Alphonce Otieno, another resident.
The only challenge that the operators at Tea Room Area face is changing their insurance policies to fit with the new sitting capacity.
“Nauli hakuna vile itakuwa chini kwa sababu diesel iko juu, kusema tubebe capacity na diesel bado iko juu, owners wa magari watakuwa wanaumia,” said Migwi Njau, stage manager, Climax Coaches.
In Kitale and Mombasa, bus operators say full resumption is a relief but it will take some time for them to be fully back as some had converted their buses for courier services and they have to refit seats and make repairs before they embark on offering passenger services.
Steven Otieno, operator, Vanga Buses, said: “Upande wa usafiri wa usiku tunaomba tufunguliwe pia kwa sababu SGR inaenda usiku na haijasimamishwa, so sisi tunashangaa kwa nini tunakanyagiwa hatuwezi kuenda usiku.”
A section of leaders have lauded the government’s move and now want the President to open the economy and institute more social protection programs to cushion the poor.
“Sisi tumepeana amri kwa wabunge wetu waskume hii mambo ya kufungua nchi na vile vile mambo ya chanjo,” said ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, on his part, said: “Wiki hii tumeongea na party leader, kuna miswada mengine tutapeleka pia, the country needs to open up, we need to open up the economy of Kenya, watu wameumia ya kuchoka.”
The government has warned that even with the resumption of full capacity for PSVs, those who will violate the protocols including thermal screening and disinfecting their vehicles, will have their licenses revoked.