Limpopo’s social distancing rulebreakers worry traders and taxi drivers
South Africa’s economic sphere is slowly re-opening but there’s hurdles along the way as informal food traders and taxi driver in Thohoyandou express concern about some Covid-19 prevention measures not being followed.
While level three regulations of the country-wide lockdown allow for greater amounts of economic activities which sees more people returning to work, Covid-19 prevention measures such as social distancing is tough to find in Thohoyandou central business district.
As the economical hub of Thulamela Local Municipality, scores of informal traders flocked to the local municipality offices in Thohoyandou to renew their trading licenses.
Speaking to Health-e News on Monday morning, they say that social distancing is not being practiced in queues. Joyce Singo, a fresh produce vendor from Makonde who trades in Thohoyandou, says that most people are not bothered to practice any form of social distancing as they continue to gather in groups.
“Although I am worried about how coronavirus spreads, I am forced to stand in a queue where people are not even practicing social distancing, despite being warned about this daily. I have been here since 6am, as I have come to renew my license so that I can continue to operate my informal vegetable market here in Thohoyandou,” says Singo.
‘Even officials aren’t bothered’
The National Department of Health encourages people to wear face masks and practice social distancing all the times in public places, as one of the precautionary measures to help combat the spread of Covid-19.
“Even the officials here [Thulamela] aren’t even bothered to force people to practice social distancing. I am worried that if one person is caring the virus here, by the end of the day we might all as well be infected,” says Singo.
Another informal trader, Tshilidzi Matodzi, says that she is happy that she can continue to earn an income but is worried about the long queues and waiting hours traders have to endure before they can renew their operating licenses.
“For weeks now I have not be earning any income, as I have not been able to operate from my informal market but now that level three of the lockdown allows us to continue selling fruits and vegetables, we still have to queue and wait for long hours to renew our licenses. Some of the precautionary measures here are not being followed at all. People are standing next to each other – some have even removed their face masks,” says Matodzi.
‘Don’t remove mask in taxi’
A taxi driver, who identified himself as Gumani Mudau, told Health-e News that he is worried about the lack of social distancing being practiced among taxi drivers, who continue to gather in groups at taxi ranks to share stories while waiting for their turn to transport passengers.
“On any given day, as taxi drivers we come in close contact with hundreds of passengers and that put us at a huge risk of contracting Covid-19. That’s why I get worried when we continue to gather in groups and share things such as food. Because if one of us was to encounter the virus, by the end of the day all of us can be infected. It’s about time we educate ourselves about how we must protect ourselves from this virus,” says Mudau.
Mudau says he is also concerned about passengers who always remove their face masks every time when they are inside a taxi.
“One of the rules we have in place is that you cannot enter a taxi without wearing a face mask, but what bothers me the most is that once people get inside the taxi, they tend to remove their masks, which is wrong and put all of us at risk of being infected with the virus,” he says.
Despite the transport department having advised that all passengers should have their hands sanitized before getting inside any mode of public transport, commuters in Thohoyandou says that they are worried about the lack of sanitizers in taxis.
One commuter, Dakalo Mavhungu, says that “people don’t even bother to sanitize our hands when we use taxis as all they care about is our money.”
“There is nothing we can do, as we’re forced to use public transport because we don’t have our own private vehicles. I think, as commuters, we have to report them to the authorities,” they add.
Also observed by Health-e News is that lack of adherence to Covid-19 social distancing rules persists in the retail sector. Shops in Thohoyandou have put signs up which indicate safe queueing distances, but some shoppers tend to ignore the measures when security personnel are not around to monitor them. – Health-e News.