Kenya: Coronavirus - Matatus Ignore Passenger Limit Order

Second hand clothes on display at a stall in Toi Market in Nairobi.

Most public service vehicles (PSVs) have defied the national government's directive to limit the number of passengers as a way of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The rule was mostly flouted by 14-seater vehicles, as fares remained constant across Nyanza and Western regions as of Saturday afternoon.

On Friday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe directed 14-seater matatus to carry a maximum of eight passengers, 25-seaters to carry 15, buses whose sitting capacity is 30 and above to have 60 percent sitting capacity.

Tracking coronavirus

In Kisumu, a spot check by Sunday Nation established that vehicles went beyond the official limit of 14, with some carrying up to 18 passengers.

Rickshaw operators plying Nyalenda, Nyamasaria and Otonglo routes - who are authorised to carry a maximum of three passengers - doubled the number in full glare of traffic police officers.


It was the same case in Homa Bay, where PSVs are yet to comply with the advisory. Most vehicles are still carrying excess passengers, who seat on 'sambaza' (a piece of wood placed between seats).

Some drivers in Homa Bay Town claimed they could not limit the number of passengers because that will affect their daily targets.

"These vehicles do not belong to us. We must take some money to the owners every day; therefore, limiting the number of passengers would reduce the amount of money we get," a driver said.

He added that they have not increased fares because nothing has changed. "If it is a must that we limit the number of passengers, we will be forced to increase the amount of money we charge."

Further, most vehicles are yet to provide sanitisers. Drivers merely use hand-washing stations made of jerry cans at terminals.

Also in Kisii fares remained the same. Mr Gabriel Muigai, who uses the Kisii-Nakuru route, said they are still charging the usual Sh600.

"There is no need to increase prices since we are all struggling," Mr Muigai said.


Fare to Nairobi stagnated at Sh800 for shuttles while that to Migori is still Sh200. "Although we have reduced the number of passengers to 10, our prices are still the same," said Mr Eric Nyakundi, a driver who plies the Kisii-Migori route.

Migori Matatu Owners Association Chairman George Rarieda hinted at a price increase after a consultative meeting on Monday.

"It is absurd for the government to expect the sector to maintain bus fares yet matatus consume the same amount of fuel even with reduced number of passengers. We will give further directive after Monday's consultative meeting," Mr Rarieda said.

Similarly, operators in Vihiga are awaiting the decision on whether prices will be increased, on Monday.

Sabatia Sacco boss Ben Muhando said they are complying with the government's guidelines on prevention of Covid-19. "We are waiting for Monday. But so far we have complied. We have provided water and soap at various stations and sanitisers in the vehicles."


In Kakamega, 14-seater matatus were packed to capacity, but drivers and passengers washed their hands with soap.

Other routes where prices have not changed are Kakamega-Kisumu, Eldoret-Kakamega, Bungoma-Kakamega, Londiani-Kericho-Litein-Sotik, and Mulot-Longisa-Bomet-Kaplong.

But those travelling from Nairobi to Bomet and Kericho were paying Sh1,200 up from Sh600. Commuters have asked the government for protection against profiteers.

By Victor Raballa, George Odiwuor, Dickens Wasonga, Benson Amadala, Ian Byron, Derick Luvega, Vitalis Kimutai, Ruth Mbula

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