Taxi operators plying long routes are struggling to survive after government suspended inter-district movements as a measure to control the spread of COVID 19.
The suspension that came into effect on Friday 11 June following a presidential directive on Sunday 6th affected taxis operating beyond Kampala and the Metropolitan which includes Wakiso and Mukono.
Operators at different stages in the New Taxi Park are now spending their time chatting with colleagues while others are seen playing cards with no clue of how earn for the day.
At the Jinja stage, more than seven operators were found in a coaster, some sleeping while others were engaged in conversations while sipping on black lemon tea.
One of the drivers identified as Ssalongo says they come to the Park to daily to escape family demands at home and with hopes that they might get some money out of luck.
Wilson Kalibbala, another operator at Jinja stage decried the hard times they are facing as many were yet to recover from the March 2020 lockdown when the president instituted another lockdown this month.
Kalibbala says they don’t have any other means of survival and yet cannot operate their taxis with in Kampala and the metropolitan since they aren’t registered at town service stages.
He argues that there are already many taxis at town service stages and they cannot accommodate more.
At Mbale stage, the situation was no different as taxi operators sat in shades at mobile money shops and in taxis to chat. The stage was largely empty as operators had taken away their taxis to parking lots while others are upcountry.
Yasin Ssentumbwe from Mbale stage says they come to the park everyday with the hope that they will get some money. At the stage, some taxi operators are acting as brokers, receiving luggage from clients and guiding people in bus parks toward different stages.
Ssentumbwe says they are facing hardships and appealed to government to let taxis although registered as passenger vehicles to also offer courier services.
At Masindi Stage, taxi operators also sit in taxis holding conversations. Many, don’t want to talk to the press saying it makes no difference to tell their story.
Abubakar Kalibbala offered to talk to us after minutes of convincing him says they are now depending on their savings which are soon running out.
He asked government to permit them carry luggage such that they can have some money for survival.
The situation is not different with bus companies. At Namayiba Bus terminal, this reporter only one bus parked. The bus from Kakise has had its seats removed to permit for transportation of luggage. Officials of the bus company declined to talk to us about their situation saying they are abiding with the directive and have nothing say.
Bus companies are now concentrating on offering courier services especially from Kampala to upcountry districts in the Eastern and Northern region.
Genesis Socrates Latigo one of the managers of YY Coaches says all their 50 buses have been parked and the company is now transporting luggage upcountry. Their major destination is the Eastern route from Jinja to Mbale and finally to Soroti where they are able to send a truck of luggage daily.
Latigo however says the courier business is also slow since they can only send one truck yet previously they sent at least two trucks.
Tonny Ochaka the manager for supervision of Makome Bus says they are also running courier services but these don’t make business sense but only do it to maintain their customers.
Ochaka says they took back many of their staff upcountry to cut on operational costs at a time when they are aren’t making money.
Ochaka is also worried that as they go through tough times, tougher times are yet to come as their parked vehicles depreciate.
Uganda is experiencing its second wave of COVID-19 which is also affecting people below the age of 40 years.
Currently, there are 63,099 confirmed COVID 19 cases, 48,480 cumulative recoveries and 434 deaths.