The National Consumer Rights Association (NACORA) has welcomed plans by the government to allow members of the public to resume intercity travel under Level Two Lockdown, saying that was long overdue.
Intercity public transport services were suspended on March 30 when President Emmerson Mnangagwa placed Zimbabwe under the initial 21-day lockdown as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
However, today more than 100 days now since the country entered into lockdown whose conditions have been reviewed more than twice intercity travel by public transport remains banned.
Zimbabwe has to date over 787 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 201 recoveries and nine deaths.
The ban on intercity public transport is despite more people now requiring to travel for genuine reasons and most of them not having their own means of transport.
Truck drivers and pirate operators are thus taking advantage of the situation by providing unsafe travel and at times charging very high fares.
However, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said Monday the Covid-19 Inter-Ministerial Taskforce had considered the need for resuming intercity and inter-provincial travel but wanted to be guided by expert advice on how to do this safely.
“Government recognises the current challenges being experienced by commuters to reach different destinations to attend to their essential needs,” said Mutsvangwa.
“The taskforce has, therefore, resolved to scientifically consider a measured and responsible process of resuming intercity travel. This will be announced next week after interrogation of the request by the appropriate sub-committee.”
NACORA spokesperson, Effie Ncube, said the resumption of intercity travel was long overdue but was quick to say it should be implemented within health protocols that curb the spread of Covid-19.
“It is very difficult to travel between cities now,” he bemoaned.
“That affects commerce; that affects the movement of goods and people. It is high time the government opened that particular sector for easier travel but in so doing, it must ensure that it does not open up for infections because if it just opens up without putting some checks and balances infections could spread tremendously.”
Ncube said the suspension of the services have had an adverse impact on the livelihoods of many Zimbabweans.
“It created a gap between cities as if one was located on the other side of an ocean,” he said.
“People naturally move, socialise, they go to see their relatives, they interact. They could not do that during that time and that on its own is problematic for the people.”
He added that rural buses should also be given a green light to resume services.
“That has to be done within strict protocols of social distancing, sanitising and so forth to protect people from the possible spread of coronavirus because if you do not do that you risk quickly spreading the virus across the country from towns into rural areas from rural areas into towns.”