Full capacity passengers in PSVs amid Covid fear

Monday, August 9th, 2021 00:00 |
Mechanics re-adjust the seats of a Public Service Vehicles at a yard in Nairobi’s Ngara area yesterday. Their move follows a directive by the Ministry of Transport to relax the sitting arrangements in matatus. Photo/PD/KENNA CLAUDE

Public Service Vehicles (PSV) will today resume carrying full capacity passengers at a time when the country is battling the ongoing Covid-19 Delta variant.

Transport Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Chris Obure said the decision was arrived at after reviewing the Covid-19 protocols and conducting a series of meeting with various stakeholders.

In particular, Obure said they had agreed to allow the industry to self-regulate itself by ensuring PSV adhere to the laid down protocols.

‘‘All passengers must wear masks, and are to be screened for body temperature using contact-free thermometer.

No passenger is allowed to board if their body temperature is above 37.5 degrees Celsius and has other signs of Covid-19, including cough or shortness of breath,’’ he said.

Further, matatu crew will have to use three-ply surgical masks.

Hawking, preaching or begging in matatus and buses will also not be allowed.

‘‘Crews are to make constant on-board announcements reminding passengers on the need to uphold precautionary measures and also to ensure that the vehicle is disinfected after every trip,’’ said Obure.

Internal communications

PSV operators and associations will also be required to introduce internal hotline communication numbers to be displayed prominently for use by commuters and road users in case of any incidents and to report traffic law violations. 

While welcoming the move by the government, Matatu Welfare Association chairperson Dickson Mbugua said they have put enough measures to ensure the virus does not spread including having a cashless system.

“We are encouraging our customers to use mobile money a lot. It’s one way to ensure the virus is contained and does not spread to the other person”, he said.

Mbugua said that they have agreed that if anyone will be caught downplaying the laid out protocols to have their license revoked.

“This time we are not joking. All our operators will have to do what is necessary.

We will encourage situations where you find some passengers even standing inside the vehicle.

If you are caught, we will not relent but ensure that your operating license has been revoked. It’s either you shape up or we definitely ship you out,” he said.

On his part, Matatu Owners Association chair Simon Kimutai said they will consider reviewing fares in instances where they had been hiked.

“Everyone of us has been hurt by the ongoing pandemic, however, through consultations we will look into areas where we will have friendly fares,” he said.

Curb Covid-19 spread

PSVs had initially increased fares after the government ordered that they reduce the number of passengers in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The matatu industry says it has lost Sh31 billion since March 2020 when the directive was issued.

But on their part, medical practitioners expressed fears that allowing PSVs to resume full capacity will trigger a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Consultant doctor Dr Yubrine Moraa said though the government says enough measures, there is a risk of having increased number of cases as the PSV sector is known to flout rules and regulations put in place.

“It’s a very delicate balance. As much as we want to revive the economy we must admit that our culture will still pull back. As a doctor I foresee a situation where cases will go up,” she said.

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