ZUPCO; a potential Covid-19 super spreader
Harare (New Ziana) –As the government grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, it should direct some attention on the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) as a potential super spreader of the deadly disease.
Covid-19 is mainly spread through the air in drops of liquid that come from the nose and mouth of an infected person. The drops are usually too small to see. They scatter when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. When the drops reach the eyes, nose or mouth of another person, the infection spreads.
Some of the important features enabling the spread of Covid-19 are its long incubation period, when the asymptomatic person can transmit the virus to healthy individuals, and the ability of the virus to survive on surfaces made from a variety of materials for hours to days.
These features facilitate the social transmission of the virus during daily activities and interactions of people and given these characteristics, the potential of public transport such as commuter omnibuses and the illegal taxis (commonly known as mushikashika) to facilitate the transmission and spread is a particular concern.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should always wear face masks in public, especially in situations where social distancing is not possible, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
In interviews, members of the public complained that ZUPCO was putting their lives at risk as its commuter omnibus crews were no longer following government regulations to sanitise passengers and ensure they were wearing face masks.
When the government banned private commuter omnibuses in March 2020 as part of measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, it directed that ZUPCO crews should check temperature, sanitise passengers as they boarded and ensure they were wearing face masks, while the buses are supposed to be disinfected at regular intervals in between trips.
A recent survey by New Ziana in the capital found that ZUPCO staff had ditched the Covid-19 safety measures as complacency crept in and citizens threw down their guard against the deadly disease.
Most of the ZUPCO drivers and conductors, some of them also not wearing the coverings, were not demanding that people boarding their buses wear face masks.
It was mostly those passengers who were conscious about their health who were wearing face masks properly while the majority were either doing it simply to comply with the law, like the nose-exposing, mouth-covering-only and chin masks.
Others were being eccentric, wearing the masks like earrings, dangling them from a single ear where they risked falling to the floor.
Contacted for comment, acting ZUPCO chief executive officer Everisto Madangwa said their staff were under instruction to sanitise passengers when they boarded buses and ensure that they wore face masks.
“They should sanitise the hands, and enforce wearing of face masks,” he said.
“Every now and then we educate them on the need to be strict in enforcing the preventive guidelines, but when they are out there they relax.”
Madangwa said the company had inspectors who oversaw bus crews and ensured they were following the safety measures.
He also urged passengers to take details of bus crews who were not enforcing the requirements and report them to the company.
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