Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is defined as illness caused by a novel coronavirus now called “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2; formerly called 2019-nCoV), which was first indentified amidst an outbreak of respiratory illness cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China (Cennimo, 2020). It was initially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019. On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, it first such designation since declaring H1N1 influenza a pandemic in 2009 (Gallegos, 2020; Wee, McNeil & Hernandez, 2020)
The illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 was recently termed COVID-19 by the WHO, the new acronym derived from “Coronavirus Disease 2019”. The name was chosen to avoid stigmatizing the virus’s origins in terms of populations, geography, or animal association (Ceninimo, 2020). On February 11, 2020, the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses issued statement announcing an official designation for the novel virus: severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros, in his regular briefing cautioned that “the world cannot go back the way things were. There must be a “new normal” – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared”. Accordingly, on April 23, 2020 WHO published a situation report on the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a global outbreak of 2,544,792 confirmed cases and a death toll of 175,694 (WHO, 2020). Also, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on April 24, 2020 recorded a total of 981 confirmed cases, 197 discharged and 31 deaths. However, a handful of people that tested positive to the virus, are now testing negative to the virus. Though, a worldwide accepted vaccine is yet to be produced.
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The COVID-19 crisis has wreaked havoc on healthcare and economies worldwide, including a vital component of human activity, transportation. The transportation sector remains the one industry that keeps all other elements as well as the entire system in constant motion and it is very difficult to conceive of a situation where transportation does not play a major role in the life of any nation or society.
Developing nations seeking to develop their economies, must as a matter of urgent necessity give priority to the transportation sector. Studied have shown that developing societies have not sufficiently tapped into the potential of the transport sector, as a result it is not fully maximized in those regions (Okotie, 2019). The Nigeria’s transport system has long suffered as a result of inadequate investment in infrastructure which has constituted huge challenge to economic growth. Transportation therefore occupies a very strategic position in modern day life and is often described as that part of economic activity that is concerned with increasing human satisfaction by changing the geographical position of good, people and services. It is the hub upon which all other activities are spatially arranged.
As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to extend it global reach, the impact is being absorbed in every corner of the economy, and the transportation sector has been one of the primary victims of COVID-19, with marked decline in exports and imports, even in domestic mobility of good, people and services. For instance, reports have indicated that Nigerian retailers are running low on consumer goods; manufacturers are suffering depletion of imported component parts necessary for production and; exporters are facing logistics challenges in exporting commodities (Okotie, 2019).
The speed with which these impacts have hit the world is unprecedented, especially because the different modes of transport (airlines, railways, maritime, pipelines, private and public transport systems) have all experienced drastic fall of customers and patronage. It is in the light of the foregoing that this paper is set to outline the effect, challenges and prospect of COVID-19 outbreak on the transportation industry.
THE EFFECT OF THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK ON THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA
a) Due to the lockdown in many countries, the demand for passenger transport has been adversely hit by the push for social distancing.
b) It has resulted negatively in shutting down of most transport modes of operation.
c) The freight segment has had a mixed short-term effect in terms of transportation demand.
d) There has been reduction in service delivery level.
e) There is a surge in demand for truck drivers in transportation of essential goods.
f) There has been a restriction on the number of passengers on taxi, buses, tricycle (keke) etc.
g) Due to the “limited or no” transport modes; people have been exposed to walking in roads with neither pollution nor congestion.
CHALLENGES OF THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK ON THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA
a) After the COVID-19 pandemic situation normalizes, the perception of risk associated with crowed areas could lead to shift in preferences towards personal travel modes. That is, people may avoid using public transport modes to avoid crowds.
b) Drivers in taxi, bus, tricycle (keke) services are economically suffering in the short term due to the COVID-19 lockdown. However, it cannot be said if these modes may face long term economic challenges in terms of reduced travel demand.
c) People may also avoid shared mobility modes like taxi, bus, tricycle (keke) etc.
THE PROSPECT OF THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK ON THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY IN NIGERIA
Some of the ways Nigeria’s transport system can adapt to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is by:
a) Revaluating and restructuring the entire transport system by the government in participating and getting more involved in its development.
b) Collaboration and partnership with more advanced transport nations.
c) Encouragement of more professionalism in the transport sector.
d) Proper regulation and monitoring of the various transport modes of mobility.
e) Deployment of modern technology and communication systems in driving the sector.
f) Enacting and formulating modern policies and also tailoring it to fit our environment.
g) Establishment of a think-tank group to develop more strategies in building a more sustainable and globally competitive transport system.
Finally, the call for advanced 21st century network of roads, airports, maritime space, train routes and land transportation network is very important in our cities, towns, small communities and the rural areas in such environment. Investments in transportation infrastructure is surging globally and the need for Nigeria to begin to look inwards in investing a sizeable part of its resources in the development of modern transportation systems and structures are essential to drive the economy of our beloved nation upward as well as upgrade and extend the life of the old structure.
For the record, global economies today are driven by digitization and fast moving technological innovations, which in turn drives new and modern systems of transport for goods, services and people. In both urban and rural communities around the world, the challenge of moving people and cargo efficiently, safely and sustainably while providing transportation for all segments of society and not just for the rich elite or top government officials alone, remains a challenge which demands new solution in our increasingly globalized, urbanized, and environmentally compromised society.
Ceninimo, D. J. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Retrieved on April 21, 2020 from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500114-overview
Gallegos, A. (2020). WHO declares public health emergency for novel coronavirus. Retrieved on April 21, 2020 from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/924596
Okotie, F. (April 11, 2019). Strategic importance of the transportation sector to Nigerian economy. Business Day. Retrieved on April 21, 2020 from https:// businessday.ng/opinion/article/strategic-importance-of-the-transportation-sector-to-nigerian-economy/
Wee, S., NcNeil Jr. D. G., & Hernandez, J. C. (2020). WHO declares global emergency as Wuhan coronavirus spreads. The New York Times. Retrieved on April 21, 2020 from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/30/health/coronavirus-world-health-organisation.html
World Health Organization (WHO), (April 23, 2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ituation report – 94. World Health Organisation.