Social distancing fails on lorries going to remote areas

On public transport for some hard-to-reach areas, social distancing is failing as operators are defying capacity rules and police are not visible on the routes.

The Malawi News Agency reported that Manyamula, Eswazini and Edingeni are among remote areas in the district where locals depend on lorries to access social services at the boma and remain voiceless to transport operators.

One of the drivers, Keston Nkhata who comes from Chiseng’ezi told Mana the capacity for lorries in hard-to-reach areas is difficult to control since that’s the only mode of transport.

“It is hard to control the number of people who board our vehicles because we come from rural areas with only one means of transport which is ‘matola’.

“Therefore, we carry everyone whether sick or not because when they miss the transport it means they will travel the following day,” said Nkhata.

Another driver, Frank Kamanga said people in hard-to-reach areas depend on lorries and it would be unfair to leave anyone behind, saying some of them travel to access medication at the boma.

“We carry some passengers who are sick, some with signs those related to coronavirus, but it’s hard for us to deny them because they all depend on us as a means of transport,” said Kamanga.

But one passenger, Naomi Mphande, contradicted the two drivers, saying it would be better if law enforcers intervened because some drivers are defying the order because they know there are no police checks on earth roads.

“I appeal to Malawi Police Services to extended checkpoints as far as rural areas, especially during this hard time so that the drivers should do the needful and care for their passengers by reducing the capacity,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mzimba Police Public Relations Officer, Peter Botha has said police are working to enforce the order.

“It is a matter of helping people from rural areas, more especially those who travel using lorries and minibuses.

“We are making sure that if previously 40 people were boarding on a lorry; we advise that 20 people should be the maximum number.

“We are also making sure that if one is found carrying passengers contrary to what the government declared, they pay a fine,” said Botha.

Among coronavirus prevention measures, the Government of Malawi on March 29 ordered reduction in capacity of passengers in observance of social distancing.

By Everister Lungu