THE resurfacing of pirate taxis, taking advantage of reduced police roadblocks, threatens to reverse the gains achieved in the fight against Covid-19 and relevant authorities need to put a stop to their illegal activities as soon as possible.
The activities by the pirate taxis are in violation of lockdown regulations which, among other measures, stipulate that only Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) buses and kombis are allowed to transport commuters.
Announcing the extension of the level two lockdown for an indefinite period on Saturday, President Mnangagwa said commuter omnibuses and unregistered taxis also remain banned.
A survey by this paper, however, revealed that pirate taxis are back on the streets charging fares between $7 and $10 to take passengers to their respective destinations while Zupco bus fares are pegged at $2 and kombis at $4.
While Zupco buses and kombis follow laid down procedures to ensure the safety of passengers, it was observed that pirate taxis on the other hand are not disinfected, social distancing is not being observed and passengers are not sanitised as they board the vehicles.
This is risky behaviour by the pirate taxi operators as their vehicles have become incubators for the spread of Covid-19 that the Government has worked so hard to contain.
With one trip, in a kombi operating illegally and violating regulations, 18 people are at the risk of contracting Covid-19 if one passenger is positive of the virus and with an average of five trips almost a 100 people are exposed daily by operators operating outside the law.
As of yesterday, the country had recorded 52 positive cases of Covid-19 and out of the total, four have died while 18 recovered.
For a country labouring under two decades of sanctions that have adversely affected the economy, Zimbabwe should be credited for implementing measures that have so far ensured that the nation has the least number of positive Covid-19 cases as possible.
However, if the pirate taxi and illegal kombi operators are not stopped on their tracks, those statistics might balloon to alarming levels should a positive case enter one of those vehicles.
The residents are also encouraged to desist from boarding pirate taxis and illegal kombis and stick to the mode of transport specified by the Government.
While it is acknowledged that since level two of the lockdown has seen more people entering the city centre for various businesses and resultantly causing a strain to Zupco, the inconvenience of delay is far much better than the consequence of contracting Covid-19 from illegal transport operators.
Important to remember also is that we are entering into winter where respiratory diseases get to the peak and with Covid-19 falling under the same category, the need to observe safety measures cannot be over- emphasised.
The police have done well to remind the public that the lockdown regulations have not changed and police and the illegal transport operators face arrest and prosecution.
“We are still on lockdown as was announced by our national leaders. This means that anyone who is supposed to stay at home should remain at home as they have not been exempted. This applies to pirate taxi operators that are seemingly getting back to the streets,” said Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube.
He said more than 100 pirate taxi operators have been arrested and their vehicles impounded since last month.
“They were operating illegally before the national lockdown and are still operating illegally. Therefore, police would want to warn them that anyone found on the wrong side of the law will be arrested,” said Insp Ncube.
He urged people to be responsible saying the presence of the pirate taxis is aided by commuters.
“We have observed that members of the public seem to be encouraging these pirate taxis to be back on the streets. Instead of waiting for transport at designated pickup points, they have flooded major roads leading to suburbs waiting to board unregistered taxi operators’ vehicles,” he said.
“If we arrest a pirate taxi operator, a commuter in the same vehicle will be charged for being an accomplice to the crime. So, we urge members of the public to abide by the laws of the country and complement authorities as we fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Residents should not just comply with regulations for police and other security forces but to protect their lives.”
It is the duty of everyone to fight the spread of Covid-19 through following regulations and behaving in a manner that does not expose them to the risk of transmitting or spreading the virus. It is a united approach that will save the lives of the people.