October 18, 2021 - 339 views

Picture and Words by VICKY BAUNKE

PUBLIC motor vehicles (PMV) bus owners who depend on the Highlands Highway to make business are greatly affected by the Covid 19 lockdown in the Eastern Highlands Province.

 PMV owners travelling from the Goroka to Mt Hagen route say it’s a 50% loss in business per day.

On average, in a normal day a PMV can earn between K800 to K900  at K30 per passenger after a return trip (K750/trip).

But since the COVID-19 lockdowns in the Eastern Highlands, and now in the Western Highland Provinces, a PMV is making about half that amount; about K400 one way trip. This is becasue return trips are not possible due to the 2pm curfew in EHP; with police also strictly monitoring provincial border checks. 

So PMV fares have now increased from K30 to K50  - from EHP to WHP - to make up for the loss; but PMVs are seeing less passengers; most of who are only travelling due to other business or for work.  

A PMV crew Kenneth Gabriel says the biggest challenge that some PMV owners are now facing is making enough to make timely repayments on bank loans taken out to purchase the pmv buses (25 seaters). 

He does raise a concern that police seem to penalise and charge PMVs whose owners have followed up and gotten exemption travel passes after the 2pm curfew, along with those PMVs that do not have exemption passes. He's asked if police or relevant authorities can clarify why this is happening. 

Despite that, he confirms, that all passengers on board any PMV is subject, along with the crew, to go through quarantine checks set up along the provincial borders; and PMV crews are now enforcing strict COVID-19 protocols for their passengers which include social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and wearing of face masks.


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