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Ban dents bus transport sector

A ban on the use of public transport as part of state of emergency measures for the coronavirus will hit bus operators and their employees, bus companies have said. 

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, included a ban on public transport or transportation of more than five people in a single vehicle, in measures taking effect for two weeks. 

The Owner of the Aiaiava Bus Transport business in Vaitele, Leanapapa Laki Anderson, says he is concerned over the lack of consultation.

“We weren’t prepared for this and of course there will be a loss of income for us since it’s 14 days,” he said.

“Now we don’t know how to pay the employees. No income for 14 days so there’s a lot of impact on the businesses and I know it’s not just me but also other bus transport businesses.

“First, they should consult with us; second, they should have a plan for us.”

But because of the fears over the coronavirus and suspected cases in Samoa, Leanapapa said he is not against the Government and hopes to speak with other bus transport businesses and discuss a proposal for the Government.

“They have to [offer subsidies] for the employees since we’ll earn nothing for two weeks.

“With our family, I have three of my sons working for this business and it’s our main source of income and we’ll surely be affected from this as well.”

Aiaiava has six buses and eight employees with help from family members.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, the head of another bus company, Queen Poto, Aiono Fa'afisi, said the impacts of the shut down would harm business but overall they were supportive of the measures. 

"We're trying to see what to do with the employees as it's effective for 14 days [...] but there's nothing we can do," he said.

Aiono said he agreed with the Government's decision as the company also prioritises the safety of the people initially.

"It's important we earn but it's also important that we care for our safety from this dangerous disease,” he said. 

Typically, around 20 buses are driving around Samoa according to an employee at the company’s main office in Savalalo.

Queen Poto is one of the biggest bus transport businesses in Samoa.

The ban is also expected to be a boon for taxi drivers looking to increase their passengers according to one driver in town, Vaasili Tautiaga.

"I think not only myself but also other drivers I've observed are rarely at the stations as they've been busy transporting especially the families for their [shopping] and that," he said.

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