Inter-regional public transportation restricted as extra COVID 19 prevention measure

Several regional states in Ethiopia banned inter-regional public transportation as extra-measure to arrest COVID 19 transmission

Hawassa city, seath of SNNPR

March 30, 2020

Ethiopia has not yet declared total lockout perhaps because it is complicated, if not impossible, because the majority of Ethiopians have to toil daily to survive. 

However, several other measures are taken on the part of the government to prevent the spread of COVID 19. Schools and universities are closed until further notice. Bars and nightclubs are banned. Ethiopian Airlines is no longer flying to more than 80 international destinations until the epidemic is beaten. Travelers arriving in the country have to quarantine for two weeks. Despite infrastructural setbacks, a considerable number of government employees, both at the federal and regional levels, are working from home. All the land borders are closed. Large social gatherings are banned, and the government has mobilized the security apparatus to enforce it. 

Yet all the above measures are not enough to prevent the spread of the disease in a country where the population is over 110 million with a firm social bond. Of all the prevention measures, social distancing proved to be difficult due to social attachment in society. 

The latest action is reducing the mobility of people from region to region and within a region too (Ethiopian Federal government is organized based on ethnic-based regions, and there are ten of them including the latest ethnic Sidama region.) 

Tigray regional state took the lead last week when it banned intra-regional movements of people from a rural town to urban centers. In a country where the daily income is less than $2 a day, the decision has definitely impacted more those who are on or below the poverty line. 

The Amhara region introduced similar measures on Sunday this week. It banned all trans-regional public transportation to and from the region except to return University students to the region from different parts of Ethiopia.  This week, authorities in the region announced that two COVID 19 cases are confirmed, one with travel history from Dubai and the other patient with no travel history. Oromo regional state had also confirmed cases – reportedly two members of the same family. 

On Monday, Oromia regional state introduced additional prevention measures. Transportation Services in urban centers (Taxi, Bajaj, motorbike – among others) are banned. Inter-regional transportation services are also prohibited. The only exception that the regional government made is transportation to the countryside and districts in the region. Those who are providing service are to cut the number of passengers by 50 percent to maintain social distancing. Authorities in the region said that those service providers who violate the regulation are to face “legal measures.”  The region went further to ban worship services to a large number of people. 

Benishangul Gumuz regional state, in the western part of the country, similarly banned inter-regional public transportation services. 

Southern Nations and Nationalities People’s Region (SNNPR) has introduced additional prevention measures this week. No buses or other forms of public transportation are to provide service in the region. They are not allowed to bring passengers from any parts of the country, including from Addis Ababa. However, the authorities permitted buses to pass through the region without letting passengers get off in the region, but those who are carrying university students from other parts of Ethiopia are allowed. Services to districts and zone levels within the region are also temporarily suspended. Taxis can operate in cities, but only if they observe social distancing by cutting down passengers carrying capacity by 50 percent. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a video message. He confirmed that the total number of patients in the country is 23 and no death so far.  

Unlike the case a week or so ago, COVID 19 is not confined to the capital Addis Ababa. Patients are reported from the Oromo and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. But no death from COVID 19 so far.

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