By Isaac Salima
Minibus Owners Association of Malawi has announced that minibus operators will comply with two-passengers-per-seat rule following the upsurge of Covid-19 cases.
The association’s chairperson Felix Mbonekera said, effective Tuesday, minibuses have to carry two passengers per seat to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.
“Indeed, it is true that, from today (Tuesday), we will be carrying two passengers per seat because of the alarming increase of Covid-19 cases. We are, therefore, going to discuss the issue of fares because fuel prices were adjusted upwards. As such, fares cannot remain the same while we are carrying two passengers,” he said.
The government imposed a two-passengers-per-seat rule on passenger vehicles last year as a preventive measure for Covid-19. But, following the increase in fuel prices last month, minibus drivers protested, saying they were making losses to operate with the fuel hike without raising the fares and demanded that they be allowed to carry three passengers per seat.
Government then gave in to their demand and, from December last year, they have been carrying three passengers per seat.
Transport Ministry spokesperson Andrew Nthiko said the government never softened up on the issue of carrying capacity.
“As you are aware, the Ministry of Health, through the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, came up with regulations that, among other things, reduced the sitting capacity for passenger vehicles by 60 percent. As such, those regulations still stand. So we encourage operators to adhere to that,” Nthiko said.