TRANSPORT and Communications Minister Mutowe Kafwaya says the aviation industry has suffered tremendously such that sometimes, Ethiopian Airlines comes to Zambia only with one or two passengers.

Speaking when he featured on special interview on Sun FM in Ndola, Monday, Kafwaya lamented that the transport sector had been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The extent of this Covid-19 pandemic can be seen even from the Airline business perspective. At KKIA before the COVID-19, We had South African Airways and Airlink arriving five times in a day, we had Emirates arriving five times a week; we had Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airways arriving five times a week, we have Proflight which was flying from Ndola into South Africa, we had a number of these Airlines coming into Zambia on that basis, but today, even without the suspension of KKIA, we only have one Airline which comes into Lusaka which is Ethiopian Airways and they are arriving sometimes with two passengers, sometimes one passenger. So this is the extent to which the global aviation has lost business as a result of the COVID-19. So you see, the global aviation sector has been affected so badly that we have to really rethink the way we treat this issue, it’s a very important issue,” Kafwaya said.

“When the President announced the suspension of the three international Airports namely the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe here in Ndola, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula in Livingstone and Mfuwe in Eastern Province, it means that we now can’t get any international travelers in these Airports. Therefore, activity which would have come straight from Dubai into Ndola will not be able to do that. So someone has come into Lusaka and then find another means of transport to come to Ndola. So there are transaction costs that have escalated as a result of that. We understand that business has become more difficult. But it is necessary to have this measure so that we don’t escalate the spread of COVID-19.”

And Kafwaya insisted that face masks were a good mitigation for lack of social distancing on public transport.

“The measures announced by the President touch on various sectors including transport. For example, the suspension of Airports with an exception of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, that directly affects the transport sector. The measure to do with social distancing affects the transport sector in the sense that when we board any transport vessel, we have to practice social distance. But we are lucky in the transport sector because His Excellency the President gave an option, in an event where you are not able to achieve social distancing, you have to mask your face so that the people you are close with are not affected by your possibility of having the COVID-19 and you are also not affected by another person seated next to you or around you who may have the COVID-19. So clearly, we are affected by all of these important measures that His Excellency has established and this is why we have joined in the assessment of implementation in order for us to determine whether there is compliance with all these measures,” Kafwaya said, after touring some bus stations to check on compliance levels.

And when asked why government had not locked down the country or at least Lusaka which was the epicenter of COVID-19, Kafwaya said all decisions were being made with the poor in mind.

“We in the PF are a pro-poor government, this is why we think through certain things and for this particular issue, the lockdown, I have to appreciate the President for refusing to lockdown Lusaka and for refusing to lockdown the country. We don’t want to lock down the country because there are people who don’t have fridges, people who don’t have power in their homes; we have people who can’t stay three days without going to town to buy food. So we consider those who are selling things in our markets as essential activities. So for us as government, we think effecting a total lockdown at this stage will be counterproductive,” said Kafwaya.

“The two options that were given by the President, either of them should be followed; one is social distancing on the bus. If we can achieve social distancing, we must all have face masks. So everybody must sacrifice because this is a very difficult time. The people who are donating the money you have made reference to, they are sacrificing because activity has slowed down and when somebody comes to donate, such a person must be appreciated. So it is important for everybody to sacrifice at this critical time.”