Thousands of passengers on Tuesday morning flocked Nyabugogo Bus Terminal in a last-minute scramble to travel upcountry after government announced new travel restrictions to contain Covid-19.
An extraordinary cabinet meeting that convened on Monday, June 21, resolved to halt inter-district movements, effective June 23.
The same restrictions which will last two weeks will see movement between Kigali City and the rest of the country restricted to only essential services.
According to Jean-Claude Nizeyimana, an employee of Kigali Coach, one of the travel agencies operating upcountry routes, the number of passengers exponentially increased on Tuesday morning.
"Passengers started coming as early as 5am. They all want to travel so as to beat the deadline set by government for the new guidelines to go into force," Nizeyimana said.
Passengers hail transition period
Speaking to The New Times, most passengers expressed the joy of having been given a transitional time before the new measures go into force, saying that by the time they come into force, they will be ready.
Fabrice Iradukunda who was travelling to Muhanga District said, "I have no permanent job in Kigali, so it's better I go home during this period. This is a good thing that they have given us some time to prepare," he said.
Another mother of one who was heading to Kayonza said, "These new measures must find me at home but the exciting thing is that we have enough time to be where we feel safe."
RURA assures safe transport
The New Times observed that transportation facilitation was challenging given the large number of people turning up travelling to upcountry districts.
The situation is even made worse by the fact that currently, public transport buses have to work at 50 per cent capacity.
"We are facing an issue of few buses and for some destinations, transport fare has been hiked tremendously," noted Josephine Nyirabanuga, giving an example of the Rusizi route where some operators were charging Rwf15,000 which is thrice the standard fare of Rwf5,000.
Nizeyimana of Kigali Coach said that the restrictions on the capacity of buses were largely to blame for the huge number of people seemingly stuck in the bus park.
"As we speak, we have sold all the bookings up to 3pm. What do you think will be the condition in the afternoon?" he wondered.
Contacted for a comment, Tony Kuramba the Director of Transport Division at Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said they had dispatched a team to the field and will be ready to solve any arising issue.
"We have been at the bus park since morning, and our team has been deployed there to solve any issue that will come up," he said, adding that they will follow up on those who have hiked the fare against the set prices.
"We want to make sure that people who want to travel upcountry are transported in safety and if need be, more buses will be provided," he added.
However, Kuramba urges residents not to panic, saying that life continues in Kigali.
"Life continues in Kigali, there is no need to make unnecessary movements to other provinces if you are based in Kigali, two weeks are not so much that can cause people to shift to other locations," he added.