Rwanda: COVID-19 - Mass Testing for Taxi Moto Operators

Taxi-moto operators on the road (file photo).

Barely one week before the 'taxi motos' are back on the streets, about 1,000 of them have been tested for Covid-19 as the baseline, in a move government says will continue in the coming weeks.

The taxi motos, which have not been carrying passengers since March 21 will next week on June 1 resume their normal operations.

The Minister of Health; Daniel Ngamije says that the 'taxi moto' riders are picked from different areas and tested in the ongoing effort to ensure no community infections of the virus in the country.

"People need to understand that tests are not immunisation. We picked different motorists from different neighbourhoods and tested them and the tests won't stop anytime soon. They will continue so that there are no community transmissions," he said.

Currently, the Covid-19 infections in Rwanda are being carried by people who upon entering the country, undergo a mandatory test, especially truck drivers and their assistants.

Preparations in high gear

The President of FERWACOTAMO, a federation of motorcycle cooperatives; Daniel Ngarambe says that all efforts are currently being put in emphasising the government directives to wash hands, wearing facemasks and maintaining the one meter distance are practiced by their members and their customers, to keep the virus at bay.

"We are giving them tips, reminding them about washing hands and spraying the helmets and giving clients sanitisers before any trip begins. Whoever uses a moto must feel safe but he or she will not get a service without wearing a facemask," he said.

Ngarambe said that besides these preventive measures, passengers will be required to pay for their trips using their mobile phones, and that cash payments will be greatly discouraged.

In the future, clients will required to use cards like the ones that are currently being used on buses.

There are approximately 45,000 'taxi motos' in Rwanda. About 26,000 of these are based in the City of Kigali.

The spokesperson of Rwanda National Police, Commissioner of Police John Bosco Kabera reminded that the 'taxi moto' riders and clients are expected to follow the rules that have been put in place.

"Our mission is not to go to the streets to hunt for taxi moto riders who are not following the instructions. We expect people to do the right thing to protect themselves and others and those who don't will be reported by others. Let's make respecting rules part of our culture," he said.

A study conducted by Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Agency (RURA) shows that motorcycle taxis make up 60 per cent of the public transport. 34 per cent use personal cars.

The Director General of RURA, Patrick Nyirishema told The New Times that a deeper analysis indicated that even with other options, many people still use and will continue using motorcycle transport.

This is attributed to the motorcycle's ability to reach many areas that public buses cannot reach.

However, to improve this, RURA plans to push for the increase of bus routes and networks, build dedicated bus lanes, improve route planning, and introduce scheduled services.

Still, Nyirishema said, even with the expansion of the bus network it's not feasible that the city will have a bus on each and every road in Kigali.

"We still have a lot of feeder roads where they don't operate in which case people will still depend on private transport - motorcycles or taxi cabs to be able to move," he noted.

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