The Greater Accra Passenger Transport Executive (GAPTE), operators of the Aayalolo Bus Services, have withdrawn the buses it hired to Citi TV to transport health workers in Accra within the period of the lockdown.
The withdrawal comes barely 12 hours to the commencement of the free bus service.
Health workers are those at the frontline battling the outbreak of the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Following the lockdown of the Kumasi and Accra Metropolitan areas and the Kasoa enclave, however, some health workers who do not have their own vehicles have found it difficult to get transportation to and from work.
This follows restrictions in the use of commuter vehicles popularly referred to as “trotro”. Some health workers, particularly nurses, have also complained about stigmatisation from the general public, including some transport operators.
In response to these concerns, a private television station based in Accra, Citi TV, took the initiative to alleviate the plight of the health workers by hiring the Aayalolo buses to transport health workers for free during the period of lockdown.
The Aayalolo buses were procured by the government in 2016 to implement the Bus Rapid Transit system, but poor planning and operations resulted in the grounding of the buses for more than a year until recently when the operations re-opened.
Citi TV announced bus four routes that would go through the major health facilities in Accra as follows:
“One bus will move health workers from Amasaman and make drop-offs at the Achimota Hospital, Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Ridge Hospital, Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital and the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
“A second bus will take passengers from Kasoa through Kaneshie Polyclinic, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Ridge Hospital and the 37 Military Hospital.
“The third bus will journey from Sakumono and make stops at the LEKMA Hospital, La General Hospital, 37 Military Hospital, Ridge Hospital and make a final stop at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
“The fourth bus will move from Ayi-Mensah and make stops at the Pantang Hospital, Legon Hospital, 37 Military Hospital, Ridge Hospital and the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.”
The government has come under a barrage of criticisms following Citi TV’s initiative. Critics say the government did not factor the plight of the essential service providers into its lockdown plans.
Last week, a journalist asked the National COVID-19 Response Team why the government had failed to deploy the Aayalolo and Metro Mass Transit buses to help alleviate the suffering of essential service providers such as health workers.
Though the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the buses services were in operation, that was not the case on the ground. The complaints by health workers who do not drive their own vehicles heightened on social media and mainstream media prompting Citi TV to step in.
All was set for the services to begin tomorrow (Monday, April 6, 2020) at 6:30am.
However, management of Citi TV received an email from the Depot Manager of GAPTE, Mr. Charles Annan, announcing the withdrawal of the buses allocated to Citi TV.
In the email sighted by theghanareport.com, Mr. Annan said, “Government has directed us to deploy the Aayalolo buses within the lockdown area in GAMA [Greater Accra Metropolitan Area].
“The schedule as provided considers our already agreed routes as advertised by your company,” he said.
The Depot managers said the government would pay for services so management would refund the money already paid by Citi TV.
“I will deliver the cash to you by close of day today [Sunday, April 5, 2020].”