Transport sector key to COVID-19 fight – Research

Findings of a collaborative research between the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, and Ikeoha Foundation, has been unveiled in Enugu, showing the vital role of the road transport sector towards curtailing the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The research, “A survey of innovative road transport solutions in Nigeria in response to COVID-19 pandemic”, was carried out by Traffic and Transportation Planning Research

Group, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UNN, Enugu Campus and the Ikeoha Foundation.

The findings were presented by Dr. Donald Okeke and Dr. Maxwell Nwachukwu on the side of the UNN, and Mr. Obiora Obasi – Ikeoha Foundation.

They observed in the report that “the global transport industry, which is hardest hit by the pandemic, has witnessed huge losses in revenue due to a tremendous decline in patronage.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is considered the worst global health calamity of the century and the greatest challenge that faced humanity since the World War 11.

“The overarching challenges have been how to keep transport operators and transport users’ safe, at the same time, ensuring that the supply chains and mobility networks are operational and road transport operators still maintain their businesses.”

The report said though there were no answers yet to the challenges posed by the pandemic, innovative solutions have sprung up around the world to address the challenges.

“These range from allocation of more road infrastructure to bike users in some cities like Bogota, to the Cool App in Malta that allows drivers to pool multiple deliveries from stores and small businesses into the same vehicle to increase efficiency

“New technologies, processes and procedures employed by road transport operators in Nigeria to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic were based on new technologies such as WhatsApp, and video calls, quick adoption and utilisation of NCDC Covid-19 safety protocols, ICT-based innovations, etc.

“51 new technologies, processes and procedures used by road transport operators in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic including the use of face masks, social distancing, cleaning of convenience, and public enlightenment showed a high effective rate with a mean of 4.5 and above on a 5-point likert scale.”

A breakdown of the PCA results on measures to contain the pandemic shows lockdown as the most effective (20%).

“It was followed in descending order by Covid-19 safety protocols (12.6%), environmental sanitation (9.8%), promotion of hygiene (8%), information technology (7.8%), face mask (7.3%) and physical distancing (6.6%). Others are public enlightenment (6.2%), palliative support (5.1%), inclusion (4.1%) and mass media (3.4%).

“This study has shown that the following lessons can be discerned from operations of both formal and informal transport systems and government’s response to the pandemic in Nigeria: Timely dissemination of accurate information can improve preparedness; Efficient contact tracing and isolation is key to prevention; Interagency cooperation can improve response and compliance.

“The lessons that can be useful for responding to similar emergencies in the future as follows: Simplified diagnostic procedures can help prevent transmission; Timely issuance of travel permits/licenses to logistics companies can aid rapid response; Security and escort services are important considerations.

“Continuing vigilance and application of measures that have worked well by all stakeholders; Tap into opportunities presented by Covid-19; Lessons about infection control should guide response going forward; Invest in opportunities presented by Covid-19 for transition to low-carbon and cleaner transport systems in Nigeria; Make policies on inclusion especially concerning persons with disabilities, the aged, women and children; Utilise lessons learned for transport systems providing for emergencies and essential services to guide future responses to Covid-19 and similar pandemics.

“It is hoped that the findings and recommendations of this study are given due attention by relevant stakeholders even as current efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic have been boosted by the development of vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Astrazeneca-Oxford, which showed about 95% level of effectiveness against the coronavirus.

“The development of vaccines is a game-changer, but this must be complemented with measures that have so far proved to be helpful in containing the virus,” the report concluded.

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