Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) in the Coast region have incurred a loss of Sh90 million since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) has revealed.
This is after the government enforced strict health protocols to curb rising coronavirus infections in the country, including a lockdown in Mombasa, a curfew across the country, and social distancing in all PSVs.
There are around 6,000 matatus plying different routes across the region.
MOA Coast co-coordinator Salim Mbarak said their audit report shows that, since March, the region has incurred Sh90 million in losses with most PSVs remaining grounded.
“We have lost over Sh90 million since the beginning of the pandemic. During the first five months, 4,000 matatus were grounded due to the strict protocols and containment measures imposed by the government. The owners were incurring huge losses so they decided to take a break,” Mr Mbarak said.
However, with the easing of some of the containment measures, more than 3,000 PSVs have resumed operations.
“We are making losses due to social distancing guidelines which demand that a 14-seater PSV now only carries eight passengers. But this is a pandemic and we must help the government fight it by ensuring we maintain social distancing. Our passengers wear face masks and also sanitise,” he said.
Mr Mbarak, an investor in the transport business, urged traffic police to arrest operators found flouting the protocols.
“The second wave is hitting hard. We will abide by the protocols but those carrying excess passengers must be arrested. Some boda-boda and tuktuk operators are also flouting the coronavirus protocols by carrying excess passengers,” he said.
However, he requested county governments not to revoke licences of PSVs found flouting the rules.
“It is an individual responsibility for passengers to wear face masks. Will they revoke ferry licences if pedestrians don’t wear face masks? At the ferry, there is no social distancing. Politicians should also be stopped from holding public rallies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Matatu Owners Association at the Coast has said it will not take part in the nationwide strike called by a section of operators.
PSV operators said they will down tools due to some of the strict coronavirus protocols imposed by the government, including social distancing, that have adversely affected the sector.
But Mr Mbarak has distanced the coast region from the strike.
“There will be no strike in this region because we are following the Covid-19 protocols. As an association, we are not striking like our counterparts but we are urging the government to ensure strict coronavirus protocols are adhered to in all sectors and not only PSVs,” Mr Mbarak said.
Mr Mbarak urged the county government to place inspectorate officials in all matatu stages to ensure all passengers adhere to health protocols.
“We have always emphasised that all passengers wear face masks. The county should ensure all pedestrians, ferry users and motorists wear face masks. Instead of targeting matatus, those who violate these guidelines are the ones who should be arrested,” said Mr Mbarak.