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Urban, Inter-urban Transport: Gradual Return To Normalcy

Since April 30, 2020 activities of the urban and inter-urban transport sector are picking steam despite the general phobia for travelling.

T he outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic across the world imposed certain restrictive measures in order to stem the spread of the disease. When the first case of the Covid-19 was diagnosed in Cameroon on March 6, government immediate took measures to contain its spread. One out of the many measures was to limit the number of passengers in transport vehicles in a bid to ensure social distancing. Township taxis were made to carry only three passengers at a time while the carrying capacity of buses were equally limited depending on the size of the automobile. Again, the government decided to ease the burden of the restrictions by uplifting the ban on the number of passengers to be transported at a time. The restrictions had a severe bearing on the revenue of the transporters. However, the April 30 measures to ease the restrictions brought a glimmer of joy and hope for actors in the sector. Speaking to Cameroon Business Today, the President of professional transporters syndicate of Cameroon, Emmanuel Nche underlined that the new measures were received with joy given that the previous measures had severe repercussions on their revenue. To him, about 60 per cent of the transporters have regained their activity given that some vehicles were parked. During a visit to some of the travel agencies at the Biscuiterie and Mvan neighbourhoods in Yaounde, Cameroon Business Today observed the normalcy that has returned in the sector. However, the transport agencies are respecting to the latter the wearing of face mask by all passengers as some agencies even provide masks to their passengers who do not have. The agencies have also provided handwashing points for passengers who are obliged to wash their hands as soon as they enter the agency. Agency officials however say the return to normalcy is still timid as many people do not want to travel because of the Covid-19 scare. A manager of a transport agency at the Biscuiterie neighbourhood which plies Yaounde-Bamenda road said the fare which went up by FCFA 2000 during the restrictive period has been brought back to the initial fare of FCFA 5,000. He however lamented that the number of passengers have reduced thereby limiting the number of trips they make as well as their revenue. The sector according to one of the land transport syndicate president lost over FCFA 6 billion during the “near lockdown” period and will take long to recover given that the pandemic is still on. As far as urban transport is concerned, taxi drivers heaved a sigh of relief following the April 30 new measures. As a taxi driver in Yaounde, Epang Ngole hinted, they now carry four passengers instead of three during. Daily income he added, has increased a bit compared to the period they were restricted to three passengers. “Now, my daily balance has gone back to FCFA 10,000 from FCFA 7,000 when we were observing the restrictive measures,” he said. However, the taxi drivers complain of lack of passengers as many people prefer staying home. They also stated that with schools still closed, it has a serious negative impact on their daily earnings. One thing the taxi drivers also expressed satisfaction is the decision by the government to exempt them from paying the ‘parking fee.’

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