Glory Msowoya, MANA
Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (MOAM) has agreed to reduce passengers capacity to two people per sit in a quest to protect citizens from Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
MOAM together with officials from Road Traffic Directorate made the resolution on Thursday during a meeting aimed at finding ways of protecting passengers from the deadly virus despite the country not registering a single case.
MOAM national chairperson Felix Mbonekera told Malawi News Agency (MANA) on Friday that effective 1st April 2020, all minibuses will be carrying two passengers per seat.
“Together with Road Traffic Directorate, we have instituted a task force which will be doing spot checks on the roads to ensure that all the minibuses which have sealed windows at the back should be open and on sitting capacity we have agreed to minimize only for this period of COVID-19.
“Each minibus should carry two people per seat, which means that we have removed one passenger per seat.
“From there, some officials from MOAM and the traffic police will help us in enforcing the recommendations,” he said.
Mbonekera indicated that strict measures have been put in place to make sure that the new recommendations are fully followed by drivers, failing which the drivers risk losing their licenses and the vehicle road permit.
However, one minibus driver in Blantyre using Ndirande to Blantyre Central Business District route, James Jali, expressed concern that the fear of COVID-19 has impacted businesses negatively with passengers opting to walk in fear of contracting the virus.
“We are losing a lot of money with this pandemic because people nowadays prefer walking by foot in fear of contracting Coronavirus in minibuses due to congestion,” he said.
On the recommendation to follow two passengers per seat instituted by the taskforce as one way of ensuring safety of passengers, Jali said they will comply for the betterment of people despite looking for money.
“Come 1st April 2020 there is need for minibus operators to follow what the task force is saying because from what I have heard of Coronavirus on radios and TVs, it seems it’s a deadly disease.
“We want money, yes, but we should also consider our lives and that of our passengers,” Jali said.
Currently, no Coronavirus case has been confirmed in Malawi despite the diseases been registered in some neighboring countries.
Coronavirus was first registered in Wuhan City in China in December 2019 and it has since infected about 500,000 people and killed 23,000 people globally.