Minimising health risks has been the focus for many countries since the novel Coronavirus started spreading across the globe from China in December 2019. This includes efforts to protect both frontline public transport employees and the travelling public.
But these measures have not only disrupted the lives of many, as it has also led to some financial consequences for transport operators who are forced to reduce the capacity of their cars in observing social distancing rules.
In an assessment of how the pandemic affected the transport sector, Citi Business News engaged with some public and private trnsport owners in some parts of Accra.
Since Ghana first recorded cases of the novel Coronavirus on March 12, 2020, the number has risen steadily from two to over seven thousand over the last two months. There have been over 2,400 deaths and more than 30 deaths in the country.
Globally, there are over six million recorded cases with over 350 thousand deaths and more than 2.3 million recoveries.
Just like elsewhere, the economic impact of the virus is also being felt in Ghana especially in the aviation and tourism industry and on the labour front. Some traders have also complained about their inability to import more goods to stock their shops, due to restrictions on travel.
It is no doubt that almost every sector has had its share of this ravaging virus and the transport sector is no exception.
In Ghana, the crowded public transport system took a hit in the country’s quest to curb the transmission of the virus. While it was declared an essential service, the fears about the coronavirus, widespread work-from-home directives, cancellation of major events and the three-week partial lockdown, resulted in a massive drop in patronage.
For operators of intercity transport company; VIP Jeoun Transport, they experienced one of their lowest seasons as passenger volumes dropped due the coronavirus pandemic. From an average of over 30 trips with over ten thousand passengers daily plying the Accra-Kumasi route, ten trips with about four thousand passengers are now hardly accomplished.
Also, the VIP Terminal, until now, has always been a busy place for travelers and hawkers who conduct brisk business. But since the outbreak of the virus and the subsequent measures put in place to curb its spread, passenger traffic has reduced.
Low traffic means coaches take longer hours to be loaded to full capacity. General Manager of VIP Jeoun Transport, Ernest Frimpong Manso, spoke to Citi Business News.
“Before the lock-down, we were carting about 10,000 passengers in and out of Accra every day. During the lock-down, obviously we weren’t able to run the operations, so the fleet was grounded. Right after the lock-down given the protocols that were adopted, we suspended the use of the two by two seating configuration buses and concentrated on the two by one given the physical and social distances that were adopted,” he said.
“…And then when the lock-down was lifted, about forty to forty-five percent of our buses which were the two by two seating configuration, were also not working, so our figures were still on the low side. Due to that, we are carting just about forty percent of the previous ten thousand. That is, averagely about four thousand passengers in and out everyday. So, such is the challenge that we are facing,” he added.
He however noted that, since the lifting of the partial lockdown, business is gradually picking up.
His claims were echoed by Sumaila Mahama, a trotro station manager in Accra.
“We have been seriously affected by this virus. Before the lock-down, we were able to go about our duties normally, but now we have been seriously affected. We are not even able get our daily bread at the end of the day. Government also says it has reduced the price of fuel, but that reduction is not enough. We are really struggling,” he lamented.
But the situation was different for drivers of ride hailing apps. They made some gains, though there were fewer people moving around. Spokesperson for the Online Drivers Union Ghana, Wise Kwaku Torgbo Dziedzorm, spoke to Citi Business News.
“We took advantage of the few people on the market and it was very beneficial to some of us. Also because most of the trotro cars were not working. Due to the nature of our business, the patronage was high, though it wasn’t as much compared to before the lock-down. Some passengers were also considerate. They even paid a little more for our services. So, we can say that the apps made some money as compared to the conventional drivers. We are also grateful to the car owners who also reduced our sales from 400 to 250 and some 300 to ease the pressure,” he said.