Some ZUPCO buses and commuter omnibuses in Bulawayo are no longer checking temperature and sanitising passengers as they board leading to a potential risk of Covid-19 infection at a time when local transmission cases are on the rise.
This is a violation of government policy that mandates public transport operators to sanitise their vehicles, and regularly check passengers’ temperatures as part of safety measures against the coronavirus.
Passengers are understandably worried about the risks of Covid-19 contagion aboard ZUPCO buses, which they heavily rely on for daily commuting.
“Many of us who go to work including our children going to school have no alternative and rely on ZUPCO for transit. Private cars are now seen pirating but are costly compared to ZUPCO, which is why we have to prioritise our safety,” said a passenger Witness Bhebhe, who resides in Trenance Suburb.
Passengers also expressed concern that in the mornings they have found some vehicles to be dirty, a sign that they are not being cleaned and disinfected after hours.
ZUPCO buses and commuter omnibuses became the official mode of public transport after the government imposed nationwide lockdown measures in March.
Under Level 2 of the national lockdown, privately owned transport operators were banned indefinitely unless they joined the government owned franchise.
Health experts have noted there is a risk of coronavirus spreading on public transport.
“Coronavirus spreads when droplets from an infected person are too heavy to remain in the air so fall on floors and surfaces. These droplets come out after an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales small droplets packed with the virus into the air. These droplets enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, either directly or after touching a contaminated object,” said Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, who has been strict about Covid-19 precautions.
When questioned about this matter, Acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo, directed queries to ZUPCO management.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care guidelines for Covid-19 transmission mitigation remain in effect. But this is an operational matter. I can neither verify or deny the validity of your statement,” he said.
In an interview with CITE, ZUPCO Acting Chief Executive Officer, Everisto Madangwa claimed the company provided sanitisers to all its fleet therefore sanitisation must be continuous.
He also urged people to report transport crew operators who had stopped carrying out the safety measures.
“These are isolated incidents, please we urge people to let us know about these incidents. It is policy that sanitisation of passengers must continue and we provide all the necessary equipment. Crews are also given thermometers to check temperature on every passenger and they are equipped with all this,” Madangwa said.
“I will send a team to investigate these claims,” and during the phone call, he was heard giving out orders for teams to be dispatched to the ranks.
ZUPCO Operation Manager for the Southern Division, Tineyi Rwasoka, added that Covid-19 was a national fight so passengers must also demand to be santiised.
“We must fight this together and all buses must carry out sanitisation. No bus must move without doing so. People must work with us and report to us so we deal with the bus crew who don’t follow procedure there and then,” he told CITE.
Reached for comment on what could be the challenges affecting ZUPCO regarding health safety on public transportation, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza said this issue fell under the purview of Local Government headed by Minister July Moyo.
Minister Moyo’s phone rang unanswered.