Mozambique: Too Many People Still Crowding Onto Buses

Maputo — Mozambique’s Deputy Transport Minister, Manuela Rebelo, said on Thursday that her Ministry is concerned at the large number of people still using public transport, particularly at night, despite the current state of emergency.

She was speaking at a ceremony where 28 thermometers were delivered to representatives of the transport cooperatives that run bus and minibus routes in greater Maputo. The thermometers should allow bus crews to detect whether any passenger has a fever and might be carrying the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.

Under the state of emergency, citizens have been repeatedly urged to limit their travel to essential journeys only. Yet buses are still crammed full of passengers, even at night. Since schools have been shut down and many workplaces are closed, or operating with a much reduced staff, there should have been a sharp decline in the demand for public transport.

Rebelo said there is no justification for buses to continue to circulate full of passengers, which merely provides favourable conditions for the spread of Covid-19.

“Overcrowding, particularly at rush hours, remains one of the greatest challenges facing the transport sector”, she stressed. “We don’t want the transport sector to be a vector for contamination with Covid-19. The decree on the state of emergency limits the number of passengers in buses. And if everything is closed by 17.00, there is no justification for large numbers of people being on the streets at 20.00”.

“We are working in coordination with the other sectors to see if we can reduce the number of people on the streets, so that the buses don’t fill up”, she said.

However, she admitted that part of the overcrowding was due to a shortage of vehicles. “All possible buses are on the streets”, said Rebelo. “We are trying, as far as possible, to repair ones that have broken down, and to see whether the transport cooperatives themselves can put more vehicles on the roads”.

Importing more vehicles would currently be impossible due to the constraints imposed by the pandemic. “Right now, the world is closed”, said Rebelo. “Even if we were able to bring in more buses, it wouldn’t be possible”.

The thermometers are intended to minimise the spread of Covid-19 on public transport. The Chairperson of the Maputo Metropolitan Transport Agency (AMT), Antonio Matos, said that all bus drivers and inspectors have been trained in the use of the thermometers.

“At the start of the working day we shall take the temperature of the bus crew, and then of all the passengers”, he said, in order to spot those who are running a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees centigrade.

The AMT has also distributed 2,000 masks to low income households in Maputo city and province, because the statistics show that eight per cent of people using public transport are still not wearing masks.

“We want everyone on public transport to wear protective masks”, said Matos. “Our buses carry over 100,000 passengers a day, and if Covid-19 enters the buses, it can spread very quickly”.

As for overcrowding, Matos said the bus timetables have been changed “and there aren’t the same crowds at the bus stops as there used to be. Instead of talking about problems, we want to bring solutions, and one of them is what we are doing today. We want to tell the passengers that we are taking all precautions to avoid contamination by Covid-19”.

Source: Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique