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Intercity travel resumes

by Staff reporter
14 Sep 2021 at 06:04hrs | Views
MAJOR bus termini, depots and popular hiking spots in Bulawayo have burst into life after Government gave transport operators plying intercity routes the greenlight to resume services in line with the relaxation of lockdown regulations. President Mnangagwa last week reviewed the lockdown from Level Four to Level Two following a decline in Covid-19 cases.

Inter-city travel was suspended for several months to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections. The resumption of inter-city travel has ignited excitement and optimism among the generality of the people, particularly traders whose source of livelihood revolved around selling wares to travellers boarding buses.

A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited Renkini and Entumbane bus termini as well as a few bus depots in the city and observed that people boarding buses were not maintaining social distancing. Renkini Bus terminus was a hive of activity as travellers jostled to board buses to their different destinations while vendors moved from bus to bus selling their wares.

Bus crews could be seen checking temperatures and sanitising people before boarding in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) health guidelines. Transporters are required to register with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to ensure that they strictly comply with standard operating procedures for their sector which are compliant to the WHO guidelines and all Covid-19 regulations

A conductor for Musa we Nkosi Bus Services, which plies the Bulawayo-Kezi route, Mr Christian Ndlovu said business was starting to pick up following a prolonged break.

"Everyone is quite excited because we are back in business after such a long period. Since the lifting of a ban of intercity travel, business has been improving," he said.

A bus conductor employed by Siphosami Bus Company, which plies the Nkayi route, Mr Thembelani Dlodlo said since the resumption of inter-city travel there has been a steady increase in demand for services. Joma Transport conductor, Mr Thabani Moyo said they were operating under strict Covid-19 health guidelines.

"We are not allowing anyone to board our buses without properly wearing a face mask and when people are boarding our buses, we make sure that we check their temperature and sanitise them. Our buses are disinfected each time we arrive at our destination and this is a routine exercise," he said.

A vendor, Ms Susan Ngwenya who has been operating at Renkini for 10 years, said business, which had gone down in the past months, has picked up following the return of buses. She sells airtime, ice-cream and soft drinks.

"Our business hinges on travellers, which means if we don't have buses coming to Renkini, there is no business for us. Things are back to normal as we are witnessing an increase in volume of travellers, which is good for us as vendors," she said.

"Since I came here in the morning, so far, I have managed to sell at least three quarters of what I brought, which was not the case before the resumption of intercity travel."

Mr Themba Nyoni, a pushcart operator said: "Business is now booming since buses started operating last week. Usually, I get hired by travellers to carry their luggage and people prefer us to taxis because we are affordable."

A popular hiking spot along Bulawayo- Harare Road was characterised by chaotic scenes as touts shoved each other as they wrestled for passengers. The principle of social distancing was totally ignored as commuters jostled to board vehicles. Bus crews said they were now competing for passengers with private cars pirating.

A tout said it was now the law of the jungle as everybody was fighting to survive. "Nothing is regulated here, you eat what you kill, which is why you see us hustling like ants. I earn my money depending on the number of passengers I would have assisted to get transport," said a tout who only identified himself as George.

The news crew observed that while passengers boarding buses at Renkini were being sanitised and their temperatures checked in line with the stipulated Covid-19 health guidelines, it was a different story at the hiking spots.

At Entumbane Country Bus Terminus, there was also a hive of activity. A bus driver, Mr Jonas Ndlovu whose bus plies the Bulawayo-Lupane and Bulawayo-Binga routes said although business was still low, he was hopeful that it would pick up as people adjusted to the new development.

"We resumed our services three days ago and it is quite refreshing to note that although business is still very low, indications are that it will improve," he said.

Extra City Bus Company's Bulawayo depot manager Mr Jeremiah Chihuri said they were adhering to the standard operating procedures, which include disinfecting premises and buses.

"Whenever people board our buses, we make sure that they sanitise their hands and we also check their temperature. We also make sure that we disinfect our premises and buses each time they arrive at the depot to curb the spread of Covid-19."

Mr Chihuri said staff members were tested and vaccinated for Covid-19 prior to resumption of operations in line with the SOP in the transport

Source - chronicle
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