Public transportation sector most affected by lockdown: Transport Entrepreneurs

KATHMANDU: The plan to allow resumption of long-distance public transportation from August 17 across the country has again been cancelled.

The Cabinet meeting held on Monday decided to resume flight operations from September 1 citing worsening situation due to surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. However, decision regarding the resumption of long-distance public transportation is yet to be taken.

According to Bijay Swar, vice-president of Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE), the public transportation sectors will comply with the decision taken by the government in view of rising cases of coronavirus across the country. Though he predicted that the government may decide to resume long-distance public transportation services from mid-September, he was of the view that not only long-distance transportation but also short distance transportation and private vehicles should be barred from operating owing to the rapidly increasing virus cases in Nepal.

Prior to this, on July 20, while announcing the end of nationwide lockdown, the government had mentioned that it would allow resumption of both domestic and international flights, and long-distance transportation from August 17. However, the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre recommended that government postpone the re-opening of transportation services and operation of flights.

Meanwhile, FNNTE Vice-president Swar expressed his doubt whether the government relief announced for transport entrepreneurs and workers through the Monetary Policy regarding refinancing and loan instalments would remain limited on paper.

The FNNTE Vice-president further signalled that the transportation sector which has around 1.1 million workers and investment of hundreds of billions of rupees in the country might have already collapsed.

Moreover, FNTTE has urged the government to keep transportation industry on the priority list of businesses classified on the basis of how hard they have been hit by the pandemic, Swar said.

Also, a memo has been submitted to the Ministry of Finance through the Department of Transport Management and the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure to make available the relief packages, FNNTE Vice-president said. He also informed that secretary at the Ministry of Finance had committed to forming a basket fund — Including COVID insurance and casualty fund — for public transportation entrepreneurs and workers.