Leroy Dzenga and Ivan Zhakata
Strict new operating procedures and an upgrade of terminuses so they are secure with controlled access and washing facilities are among the measures being introduced to ensure the resumption of intercity bus services does not see Covid-19 infection spreading.
Bus crews, including drivers, conductors and loaders, will not be allowed into Mbare Musika long-distance bus terminus before they produce a certificate showing they tested negative for Covid-19, and yesterday the terminus was being walled while boreholes were being drilled to provide the necessary water for washing.
Buses will not be allowed to enter the terminus without displaying a thermometer, disinfecting gadgets and sanitisers. Bus companies are now required to keep registers of visitors, sanitise passengers and disinfect vehicles after every trip. Bus windows need to be kept open whenever possible and sick staff must stay at home, regardless of the presumed illness.
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development has drawn up a list of standard operating procedures to ensure that there is strict adherence to World Health Organisation Covid-19 guidelines.
There has been growing need for intercity travel, often for good reasons, with truck drivers and pirate operators taking advantage by providing unsafe travel.
The Government had banned intercity travel as part of containment measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel was seen as a danger, allowing infection to spread from areas already hit by Covid-19 to areas that were still safe, as well as opening passengers to risk of infection by sitting at close quarters for hours on end.
The re-opening of exam classes in schools and the resumption of domestic tourism both highlighted the need for safe intercity travel. Bus operators during the past week have been battling to meet the standard operating procedures which the ministry has since described as non-negotiable.
Zimbabwe Passenger and Transporters Association (ZPTA), an association of 45 bus operators, yesterday erected a palisade fence around Mbare long distance bus terminus and drilled two boreholes. This is to make sure the place is well secured and has running water for people to wash on entering and exiting the place as well as washing down buses.
Construction workers were erecting the perimeter fence at the site yesterday.
The association’s secretary general, Mr Wilfred Chibage said the move was meant to complement Government efforts in fighting Covid-19 and prevent unnecessary movement within the terminus.
“We liked the decision to allow intercity and urban to rural travelling,” he said. “We planned that before getting back on the road, we must come up with preventative measures to make sure that everyone is safe. We have been given a standard operating procedure from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to follow. We then said before we get back on the road we must fix Mbare Musika which is used as a dispatching area.”
Bus operators appreciated the need to secure the terminus by having a controlled entrance and exit point.
He said buses will have one entrance where they will be disinfected and checked before getting into the rank.
“No bus crews will be allowed to get into Mbare Musika without showing certificates that they have been tested for Covid-19,” said Mr Chibage. “The fencing will help us in preventing unnecessary movement within Mbare Musika and we will ensure that there is social distancing too.
“The two boreholes we drilled are meant to alleviate the water shortages, one at the entrance and another at the exit so that water will be available for people to wash their hands on entering and exiting the area.”
Bus operators are making frantic efforts to return to business immediately as those whose vehicles are not under Zupco have not been in operation since March when the initial lockdown was instituted.