While addressing the nation on Sunday following the outbreak of Covid-19, President Museveni issued new measures that seek to prevent the spread of the virus.
Standing out among them was the advice that Ugandans should minimise the use of public transport while commuting to work because according to him people crowd in buses, mini-buses or taxis and, therefore, are prone to contracting or spread the virus.
“Therefore, for now, I appeal to you if you don’t have your own public transport, car, motorcycle, your own bicycle don’t use this public transport, stay at home, where are you going?” he said.
While the President is right in raising the alarm while at the same time keen on keeping productive sections of the economy running, the directive is bound to fail flat on implementation. For instance, yesterday, many taxis were seen ferrying passengers – at full capacity of 14-seater across the city.
We cannot guess that the operators and commuters did not hear the directive. They could have watched or listened to the President on Sunday evening. But what options do they have?
Kampala has on average three million people during the day and hundreds of thousands in the night according to available statistics.
In 2018, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) estimated that there were one million motor vehicles across the country and was registering an entry of about 10,000 new car units into the country annually.
If, for example, we say half of these vehicles (500,000) are within Kampala, and close to half of those (200,000) are private, then it leaves 300,000 public transport means. This means that more than two million people come into the city on public transport.
Another issue that does not help the President’s advice is that many government bodies and private companies are still working at full capacity. The business class in downtown Kampala and elsewhere are still at work. This means that the available means of transport is limited.
Also, using boda bodas to work is costly for many because the fares are usually double that of taxis. In the circumstances, the government should borrow a leaf from Kenya where matatus have been asked to half numbers in their vehicles. A 14-seater taxis, for example, have been directed to carry only seven passengers.
Secondly, the government should encourage public and private offices to reduce on their workforce and find ways of asking others to work from home or take annual leave in order to lessen congestion in the city.
Let us all unite and defeat Covid-19.