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STUDENTS: Curfew lifted to enable buses, taxis travel late

Thousands of students are trying to find their way home from the city. PHOTO BY @canarymugume

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has lifted the curfew to enable buses and taxi to travel late and ferry stranded students from Kampala. Additional transport means are now also being considered, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Diana Atwine has announced.

Hundreds of people are still stuck in various bus and taxi parks in Kampala because of exorbitant transport fares. The fares shot up on Monday following the new COVID-19 control measures to contain the second wave, which has seen a surge in infections.

Uganda Police and Gulu University have already offered buses to help ferry students. It is not however clear if schools are still hosting or even feeding students who were released on Monday.

In addition to closing schools, President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni also banned inter district travel for the next 42 days in his Sunday evening address triggering mass movement with several people choosing to travel upcountry fearing a major lockdown.

As a result, there is panic in various bus and taxi parks as people fight to secure means to travel upcountry. Apparently, the transport fares to most up-country areas have more than doubled. Nelson Sekandi, a manager at Namayiba bus terminal, says that the amount of money has definitely increased, for example, a trip from Kampala to Gulu now costs between Shillings 160,000 and 170,000 from Shillings 40,000 previously.

Kampala to Lira now costs between Shillings 100,000 and 150,000 from the normal fare of Shillings 40,000. Sekandi justifies the increment, saying that buses are operating at half capacity since they are not allowed to carry full capacity so as to comply with the SOPs.

However, it should be remembered that the operators hiked the fares in March last year to meet the costs of operating at half capacity. He downplayed the failure of many people to travel home, saying the presence of the curfew limits the hours people access the park.

Lea Agwang, who was waiting for a bus at Namayiba Bus Park, said the park is congested at the moment. She the few available buses have hiked their fares, making it difficult for many people to travel.

The situation is not any different in the new taxi park in Kampala as students and other travels continue flocking the park in a bid to return to their homes.   Fred Naronde, Vice-chairman at Mbale costa stage in the new taxi park, says that the vehicles are carrying a maximum of 15 to 20 people in order to maintain the social distance.

He says that they revised the fares from Shillings 20,000 to 50,000 from Kampala to Mbale because the vehicles do not bring back any passengers on their way back to Kampala.

Mark Zion, a passenger in the new taxi park, says currently one has to know a taxi driver to secure a seat in a taxi.

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