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Masindi taxi drivers welcome re-opening of public transport, call for extension of curfew.

Masindi taxi drivers under their umbrella organization Masindi Taxi Drivers and Operators Association (MATDOA) have welcomed the decision to reopen public transport, saying that they’re ready to resume work while observing in-place guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19.  

On June 1st, President Museveni lifted the ban on public transport that had in place for 75 days, as part of the steps to gradually reopen the economy that had been significantly grounded by a raft of measures designed to stop the spread of corona virus. 

Speaking to the nation for the 15th time since the start of the pandemic at State House Nakasero, Museveni noted that henceforth taxis and buses would be allowed to resume operations, provided they carried only 50% passenger capacity to observe social-distancing guidelines.  He however maintained the ban in 40 districts bordering the neighboring countries.

In an interview with theCooperator shortly after the presidential address, Musatafa Barungi, the MATDOA chairperson welcomed the new directives, saying it was a relief to many of the association’s members. “We have been living in a terrible situation because most of us have not been working at all. Our taxis are our livelihoods,” he said.

Barungi added that they were ready to implement the necessary guidelines to limit the risks of spreading the virus as much as possible.  “Before a passenger enters our vehicle, they must wash hands, sanitize and also have masks. As much as we want to work, we know that we must take the necessary caution to stay safe,” he explained.

He however appealed to government to revise curfew hours, from the present 7:00pm – 6:00am to between 6:00am to 10:00pm , owing to the traffic jam that would be inevitable when all the taxis and buses return to the roads.  He also expressed worry about the still low numbers of travelling passengers, since many other sectors of the economy remain grounded. “We are expecting to send between 7 to 10 taxis in Kampala a day instead of the 20 taxis we have been sending. We normally transport students, lecturers and business people but now they are not moving,” noted Barungi.

Asked about how they were reacting to the cap on passenger numbers, Birungi said they had no option but to increase transport fares.  “The fare from Masindi to Kampala has been increased from shs.15000 to shs.25000, Masindi- Kigumba has been increased from shs.6000 to shs. 10,000 shillings, while from Masindi to Bweyale, it has increased from shs.12000 to shs.15000. 

MATDOA has a total of 250 members who in addition to associating for work, also run a joint Savings and Credit Cooperative.  Nicolas Musinguzi, the SACCO’s vice chairperson too welcomed the move to reopen public transport, noting that members had almost exhausted all their savings in the SACCO.

“Before we went into lockdown, we had savings of up to shs.21million, but as we speak, they have declined by 98%. This is because most of what we save is earned from our daily operations and we have not been working. But we are optimistic that with the re-opening of public transport we are going to resume saving”, he said.

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