For months, the virus put the world under house arrest. Well, everyone was affected, especially those who relied on the mobility sector for traveling purposes. The biggest percentage of travelers are estimated to be below the age of 40 with those within the age range of 18 to 30 still the highest. The latter age is the most active, most restless, most productive in the economic sector who also have the most demanding zeal to be everywhere and do everything at the same time.
The mere fact that this age group makes up the majority of the world population means that their presence will dominate a majority of the areas at any time, save restricted places identified by local governments and health organizations.
Young people travel for different reasons. These reasons range from business, education and study tours, corporate and official duty, tourism, sports, individual research activities, and many others like family and friend visits, religious crusades, entertainment, recreation, and more.
In Uganda, for instance, transport systems were greatly affected by the onset of partial lockdown with great changes in mobility systems and a hike in transport fares. These circumstances saw passengers paying up to a 100 percent increment in the charges from the original rates for respective destinations.
But, are these hikes realistic to a youth traveler looking for survival in a poor economy and with no stable source of income?
Considering the exorbitant travel rates, can one earn still make the money they are using when they travel?
In the case of Uganda (and many other African countries), there are no standard billing systems and governments have very little control (if any) over transport charges and transport systems. Sadly, the voices that raise concerns may be ignored and disregarded.
The reason for the high charges for public transport compensates for the seats that were kept empty in the effort to maintain social distancing while traveling. In most cases, however, passengers pay higher fares and are still crowded in the vehicle to capacity.
There are no proper safety monitoring systems ensured in the transport and mobility systems to ensures strict safety standards. This makes control of the spread of the virus difficult.
While there are conditional circumstances where one must travel, the risk of the transmission of the virus increases as one cannot be constantly careful throughout the journey which may sometimes take a few hours or more.
Recently, Ugandan authorities reported the 4th stage of community transmission of the virus. Unfortunately, a clear-cut strategy to curb the transmission was never released. This makes travelers remain at risk of virus transmission, economic breakdown, poor health safety, and vulnerability to the virus.
It should be remembered that the vulnerability of the youth in this situation goes beyond road safety and COVID-19. When they are affected, several other social and governance systems will be compromised, as well.
The youth need to be supported and valued for a safer future. Young people make up a large portion of the population and are thus able to help contribute to the overall development of their communities and their countries.
As the infection from the virus continues to soar, the best way to ensure the safety of travelers would be to disinfect the mobility systems, employ health workers, and traffic officers at bus and taxi stations to monitor behaviors, and ensure all health protocols are strictly followed.
There is no point in hiking the fares if the health protocols cannot be followed. This would only put the lives of travelers at risk with an increased chance of infection.
Tanzania has had everything running normally throughout the period of global lockdown. Clearly, strict policies on restrictions and health protocols have been implemented and followed to avoid transmissions of the virus and it worked for them.
There are always opportunities for improvement. To discover better ways, travelers should ensure their own safety and speak when the health protocols are being violated.
If the regulations were adhered to, the systems monitored properly, and the safety standards were kept at all points, maybe we would be moving towards a reduced burden of infection and even eliminate the virus sooner.
As the governments play their role, people must also be responsible and commit to ensuring safe travels and a reduced rate of transmission of COVID-19. This will help economic activities return to normal without a burden. One thing for sure is that there is always a need for one to travel.
Written by: Brian Odama - Director Operations/Co-Founder, RoadWays Uganda