Coronavirus and public transport saga. In phase two of the easing of restrictions in Ghana, The President, Akufo-Addo, in what was his 14th Address to the Nation on updates to Ghana’s Enhanced Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, on Sunday, July 26th, among other directives, lifted the restrictions in the transport sector.
“In consultation with the Ministries of Transport and Aviation, and the leadership of transport operators, Government has taken the decision to lift the restrictions in the transport sector and allow for full capacity in our domestic aeroplanes, taxis, ‘trotros’ and buses,” the President said.
This particular part of his statement did not go down well with some Ghanaians and some sections of the public, for example, religious leaders took to social media to express their dismay as to how social distancing should be observed during religious gatherings but then get into public transports without the hitherto social distancing that used to exist for all the while in traffic.
Following the uneasiness, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), came out to offer some explanation that COVID-19 does not spread fast in public transports as many thought.
“Our advice to allow all forms of transportation services to resume full operation is that, based on our contract tracing activities, we have had cases all over but we have not found anyone who traced the infection through transport,” Dr Kuma-Aboagye said.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye went on to support his claim by stating that the evidence so far gathered in the country did not support the risk of transfer of COVID-19 in vehicles compared to other diseases.
In a piece originally produced by Abdallah Kweku Afedzi under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship in partnership with Ghana News Agency to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism, Some interesting facts have emerged that are worth corroborating.
Accordingly, some scientists had earlier predicted that crowded public transport could stifle Africa’s fight against COVID-19. This was what led to the social distancing protocols in vehicles.
To also manage the spread of COVID-19 in a confined setting, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention developed some guidance for the transportation sector.
This action culminated in some serious challenges, in South Africa, the social distancing in vehicles was affecting the vital public transport with some drivers recording losses, in Ghana as well, many drivers complained of not breaking even as they could not fill their vehicles with the required full capacity.
According to Mr Afedzi, Dubawa conducted some internet research and found some contact tracing studies and research conducted elsewhere which found fewer cases of COVID-19 infections in public transportation.
Some of the studies listed were:
A recent study conducted by researchers at Sante Publique France, the National Public Health Agency and published on June 4, 2020, which identified 150 COVID-19 infections and found that none of the 150 cases was traced to any form of transportation.
A similar study in Austria found that not one of 355 case clusters in April and May was traceable to those in transit.
Also, a cluster of COVID-19 disease in communities in Japan between January and April 2020 came to a conclusion that fewer percentage of “super-spreader” events was traced to public transport.
The news portal went on to opine that, the studies revealed the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 being higher in offices, restaurants and bars.
The daily mail reported on its website on August 3 that there was no available data in the UK about the risk of contracting COVID-19 on public transport.
The report added that analysis of contact tracing data by Sam Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner, found that only four per cent of 1,300 of COVID-19 hospital admissions in early May had used public transport prior to infection.
According to an interview granted by Dr Kwabena Sarpong, Deputy Director of GHS in Charge of Public Health in the Central Region to Dubawa to get an understanding of the transmission of the virus in public transport. He said that people are at low risk of contracting COVID-19 in public transport.
“I know some works have been done which suggests that there is a low risk of contracting the virus in public transport compared to other places but that does not also mean it is impossible to contract it in public transport,” he is reported to have said.
He further explained that people are not likely to talk, sing, and shout in buses and indicated that the virus spread through droplets from an infected person through speaking, singing, coughing, and sneezing.
“If you are in a public transport loaded to capacity, you have to exercise personal responsibility and ensure that you wear the approved face masks and also make sure you or the person sitting close to you does not talk or shout,” he added.
Contracting COVID-19 on public transport is far less likely than it was earlier feared. Although it is not 100 per cent certain that one cannot contract COVID-19 in public transports, its infection rates, according to studies, are very low.
This does not mean, however, that caution should be thrown to the wind, it is advised that the protocols are adhered to as much possible.
Coronavirus and public transport saga
Credit: Abdallah Kweku Afedzi