The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) in collaboration with the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University hosted a hybrid virtual and physical symposium on Transport and Covid-19. The symposium held on 22nd February 2022 at the College of Computing and Information Sciences’ Conference Room was aimed at disseminating research findings from a project titled: Modeling the Exposure Risk Trade-off between Public Transit and Private Paratransit for Transport Decision making in the era of Covid-19.

Participants during Transport and Covid-19 Syposium held at Makerere University in Uganda

The overall objective of the project was to provide a science-based answer for transport policymakers in developing countries in relation to the safest publicly available transport mode to move people during the pandemic, and making travelling in para-transit modes-especially motorcycle taxis safer. The project also aimed to address issues related to changes in travel choices and preferences during the pandemic. It was funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Newton Fund Agile Response Call to Respond to Covid-19.

Dr. Frank Mugagga (C) with other Participants during the Transport and Covid-19 Symposium

The project started in 2020 and ended in December 2021. It was carried out in four countries with twelve (12) researchers involved in three (3) case study cities of Nigeria (Owerri), Uganda (Kampala) and Bangaldesh (Hakara). The project was a collaboration between five universities including: Makerere University, University of Leeds, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, University of Asia Pacific and Federal University of Technology Owerri. Makerere University was represented by Dr. Paul Mukwaya from the Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Climatic Sciences, CAES, and Dr. Andrew Bwambale from the Department of Civil Engineering, CEDAT. The project was executed under the leadership of Dr. Zia Wadudu, Associate Professor at the Institute for Transport Studies – University of Leeds. According to Prof. Wadud, the research project was diverse in terms of gender, age, race and area of coverage. The symposium was guided by two main objectives including: 1) Disseminating and sharing relevant international academic knowledge with stakeholders in the transport and health sectors; and 2) Facilitating opportunities for networking, collaboration and exchange of ideas with international experts in evidence-based practice and education.

Participants listen attentively during Dr. Chinebuli Uzondu’s presentation

Addressing the participants, Dr. Paul Mukwaya called for extensive dissemination of the research findings within and outside the health and transport sectors. He emphasized the importance collaborative research in addressing public health challenges.

Dr. Paul Mukwaya giving his introductory remarks during the Symposium on Transport and Covid-19

In his remarks, Assoc. Prof. Frank Mugagga, Head Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Climatic Sciences, appreciated  the university of Leeds and all collaborating institutions for the worthwhile initiative, noting that the findings would greatly guide public transport management during health emergencies. He also appreciated the institutions for co-opting students on the project. “In line with the Makerere University motto, you cannot effectively Build for the Future without engaging the students,” he noted. Referring to objective two of the symposium – Facilitating opportunities for networking, collaboration and exchange of ideas with international experts in evidence-based practice and education – Assoc. Prof. Mugagga called for more research collaborations within and outside the country.

Dr. Frank Mugagga giving his opening remarks during the Transport and Covid-19 Symposium

Presenting an overview of the project, Dr. Zia Wadud Associate Professor, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds and Principal Investigator noted that the project focused on “modeling the exposure risk trade-off between public and private paratransit for transport decision making in the era of covid-19”. Highlighting the statistics of COVID19-related infections and deaths between 2020-2022, Dr Wadud said 86 million people were infected by early January 2021and 1.8 million people had died of covid-19 in the same year. By February 2022, the projected rate of covid-19 infections had increased to 445 million with 5.9 million deaths.

Dr. Zia Wadud presenting an overview of the project on Covid-19 and Transport during the Symposium

According to Dr. Zia Wadud, the research was guided by the need to find the safest publically available transport mode during the pandemic. It also aimed at making paratransit modes of transport safer and establishing the effect of COVID19 on public transport operators and drivers.

Findings from stakeholder workshops held in Dhaka, Kampala and Owerri revealed that majority of the populace were not sensitized enough to the perils of COVID19, public transport fares increased substantially, and enforcement of the COVID19 Standard Operating Procedures was a major challenge. The research also revealed that unorganized nature of transport services was a major bottleneck during the pandemic.

Participants during the Symposium on Transport and Covid-19

The research further indicated that the majority of public transport and paratransit users were conscious of the pandemic and preferred strict observance of the COVID19 safety measures, such as maintaining distance, wearing facemasks and the presence of hand sanitization facilities. Public and paratransit transport users were willing to pay an extra fee for safety measures such as distancing.

Dr. Chinebuli Uzondu giving her presentation during the symposium

Through quantitative and qualitative modelling of the exposure of COVID-19 virus inside different types of publicly available transport means- motorcycles and buses using Computational Fluid Dynamics model, it was discovered that motorcycle taxi infection risk was lower compared to that in buses hence making it the safest mode of transport.

Dr. Amirul Islam Khan presenting an analysis of the exposure risk of Covid-19 for a Motorcycle Taxi

In line with the findings, the research team invented a paratransit shield to mitigate exposure to the virus. The shield completely eliminates airborne exposure of the passenger to the droplets coming from the drivers’ cough.

Dr. Andrew Bwambale presenting his findings during the Transport and Covid-19 Symposium

Other presentations at the symposium included;Public Transport and Paratransit Resilience in the Global South in the Era of Covid-19: Lessons from Stakeholder Workshops by Dr Chinebuli Uzondu, Federal University of Technology Oweri; Exposure Risk Analysis of COVID-19 for a motorcycle taxi /Modelling exposure risk in Para-transit transport mode or ride sharing services by Dr Amirul Islam Khan, University of Leeds; Willingness to pay for COVID-19 mitigation measures in public transport and paratransit in low-income countries by Dr. Andrew Bwambale, College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology – Makerere University; User Assessment of Safety between Public Transit and Paratransit in the Era of COVID-19 by Dr. Farzana Rahman, UAP; The Effects of Covid-19 on Public and Para-transit Drivers in Developing Countries, A Case Study of Dhaka and Owerri by Dr. Zahara Batool, University of Leeds; International Insights by Dr Amirul Islam Khan, University of Leeds; Travel Behaviour Impacts of COVID-19 in Indian Cities by by Ashish Verma; Mobility During Extreme Events: Choice Behaviour of Urban Dwellers in the Global South During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Dr Arkopal Goswami; Gender, Urban Transport and COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa: Moving Forward or Regressing back by Dr Heather Allen; Efficacy of COVID-19 Transport Policy Responses in Uganda: Lessons Learnt and the Way forward – Enos Baluku; The Impacts of COVID-19 Related non-Pharmaceutical Interventions on Mobility and Accidents in Bangladesh – Annesha Enam; Face Mask Mandates and Risk Compensation: An Analysis of Mobility Data during COVID-19 Pandemic in Bangladesh – S M Rahman; Characterizing Public Transport Shift to Active and Private Modes in Latin America During the Covid-19 Pandemic – Richardo Giesen, Cath University Chile; and Wishful Thinking? Addressing the Long-Term Implications of Covid-19 for Transport in Nigeria – Emmanuel Mogaji, University of Greenwich.

The Motorcycle Shield invented by the Research Team on Transport and Covid-19 unveiled during the Symposium

Article written by Kasemiire Mariam, Web Administrator, CAES & Law

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