CAPE TOWN - Bus and minibus taxi operators in Malawi have increased fares after the government imposed passenger number restrictions to help ward off Covid-19.
Last week, transport minister Ralph Jooma announced that all public service vehicles would be required to reduce carrying capacity by 60 percent and also ordered that passengers wash their hands before boarding a bus or minibus taxi.
The measures - as well as the closure of Malawi's borders - are part of efforts by the government to ensure that the southern African nation remains free of the novel coronavirus which has engulfed many countries around the world after being first reported in China last December.
However, local media has reported that minibus taxi and bus owners are hiking prices to offset the capacity limitations.
Online news site Nyasa Times said fares for routes in the capital Lilongwe had jumped to K600 - K700 (about R15 - R17) from K400 - K500 before the restrictions.
Nyasa Times quoted Minibus Owners Association acting chairperson Felix Msiska as saying the new sitting capacity would not allow operators to break even.
"With two people per row in minibuses, we cannot break through with the old fares. This is a big blow, this has hit us a lot,” Msiska said.
Meanwhile, Malawi announced the suspension all international flights from April 1.
The Civil Aviation Aeronautical Information Services said the suspension was in line with the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization.
President Peter Mutharika has also declared a national disaster following the outbreak of Covid-19 neighbouring countries.