Hundreds of passengers, mainly office workers, traders and students from different schools and institution, were left stranded in different locations around Freetown due to the scarcity of vehicles to take them to their various destinations of work.
On Monday, 23rd March 2020, the moment of rush, push and shove was on high display as commuters sought their way for the less available commercial vehicles plying the streets of Freetown to take them to their different locations. The rush was intense in almost every bus stop in the city due to vehicle owners’ reluctance to let their vehicles out for its normal day transportation routines.
This stranded situation for passengers and commuters came in the wake of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation’s press release on new measures for commercial vehicles in and out of the city effective Monday, 23rd March 2020; the measures were in correspondence of Government’s measures to curb the prevalence of the Coronavirus disease in the country.
Sierra Leone is among the few African Countries left with a report of no case of COVID-19 Disease, and with such, the government is putting stringent measures in place to ensure the situation stays as it is. Public gathering of more than one hundred (100) people was stopped, whiles Friday Jumah prayers for Muslims and Sunday Service for Christians is also halted for the time being.
Sports activities across the country have been banned; whilst the expected West African Senior Secondary School Examination (WASSCE) that was to start in early April has been indefinitely suspended. All learning institutions have been told to close on Tuesday, 31st March 2020.
From Monday, 23rd March onward, commercial vehicles ranging from Kekeh, Poda Poda, Vans and Buses are to effect certain measures in sitting accommodations for passengers as restrict measures against the COVID-19 Disease. Kekeh which normally carries three (3) passengers at the back has been reduced to two; five seater vans will now be seated by four passengers in a row, while long buses will have no more middle seats and no more standing by passengers as it used to be.
Most commercial vehicle owners, especially those with long buses did not allow their vehicles to go out for job; thus causing a strenuous situation for passengers and commuters on Monday morning.
According to an owner of one of the long commercial buses who prefers anonymity, he disclosed to NewsWatch that the safety measures announced by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation is a welcoming one in their point of view as vehicle owners, but the ministry on the other hand should listen to their own request.
“The precaution measures outlined by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation are all important ones for the safety of all Sierra Leoneans, but we vehicle owners also have our own concerns which are serious ones as well”, he said.
He maintained that, they will greatly run at loss if their vehicles are to ply on the road with such measures in place and fuel pump prices remain as they are.
“The price of fuel has drastically reduced in the world market, and as such, we are also expecting Sierra Leone prices to drop as well. We have tendered our concerns to relevant authorities and until they adhere, our position remain the same”, he remarked.
Passengers especially workers and students expressed dismay over their stranded plights – a situation which forced many to walk through long distances just to get vehicle.
“I have been here since 6:00 am and it is getting to 9:00 without getting transport. I am almost an hour late for school”, John Sesay, an SSS 2 Pupil of Ahmadiyya Islamic Secondary School, explains.
Explaining her constraints caused by the vehicle shortage, Mariama Kamara, an office secretary reveals the amount of pain she incur due to the endless rush on every other vehicle that stops by to on-board passengers.
“My body pains me all over due to the shove and push from other passengers who are also eager to on-board vehicles that stops by, but unfortunately I have not been able on-board on any and am already late for work”, she said.
“We hope and pray this situation doesn’t continue tomorrow”, she prayed.