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Commuters crowd Kimberley hiking spots

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These areas are now seen as potential hot spots for the spreading of Covid-19.

THE TRANSPORTATION of commuters in private vehicles at numerous hiking spots in Kimberley has come under the spotlight as potential hot spots for the spreading of Covid-19.

This follows an increase in the number of commuters at the Phakamile Mabija hiking spot.

The situation is reported to be getting out of control as desperate travellers are crammed into overcrowded private cars, many of them without masks.

Residents staying in nearby houses have described the situation as a health hazard, adding that nothing was being done by the authorities.

The residents say that many of the hitch-hikers are not wearing masks and do not adhere to social distancing rules.

They stated that the number of hitch-hikers at that particular spot had increased following the week-long window period for the movement of people between provinces. The window period, which was from April 1 to 7, ends at midnight tonight.

According to the residents, taxis operating at the hiking spot have been closely monitored by the police, army and traffic officers since the beginning of the lockdown but a blind eye has been turned to private vehicles.

One of the residents, Ernest Collins, said that it appeared that no one was monitoring private vehicles and hitch-hikers who crowded the pavements, waiting for lifts.

“It is mostly the same cars that we have identified that are risking the lives of desperate people,” said Collins. “Why is it allowed that passengers’ lives are being put at risk while they know the Covid-19 drill? Unless they want to spread the virus intentionally.

“I believe that by now everyone knows how the virus is spread.”

A concerned community member, who works at a shop near the hiking spot, also complained that this week’s increased activity in the area could contribute to an increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases in the Northern Cape.

“I am always dumbfounded when I see people hiking without masks. They are not even sure whether the cars they are getting into have been sanitised,” he said.

‘For now, I feel the registered taxis are safer to travel in because if someone tests positive, all fellow passengers can be traced.”

South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) operators indicated that all they could do was stand by and watch as they had exhausted all efforts to address the situation. “We have called the police every day. Our business is being trampled on and we cannot do anything about it.

“We are permitted to load only 70% of licensed passengers, with social distancing and other mitigating measures remaining in place, while the rest of the passengers are ferried by private cars,” said one operator.

“They feel they do not want to wait for the taxi to load more passengers before it leaves. What they are ignorant of is that they might be getting into a car that hasn’t been sanitised and are therefore exposing themselves to the virus.”

A private car operator, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the travellers knew that they were hiking at their own risk.