In May 2020, the High Volume Transport (HVT) Applied Research Programme which is funded by UKAid through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), published an insight paper by the Road Traffic Injury Research Network’s RTIRN Chair and Deputy Chair (Drs Kobusingye and Peden) on the nexus between transport and health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report looks at the five interacting dimensions between transport and public health – safety, active transport, clean air, connectivity/access, and equity – during COVID-19. It highlights the positive unintended effects of the pandemic – reductions in road crashes and improvements in air quality - and questions what can be done to maintain some of these gains.
The report emphasises the gaps in current knowledge, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, such as the effectiveness of masks in crowded public transport, and the impact of severe transport restrictions on vulnerable populations, especially older people, adolescents, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities. It argues that COVID-19 offers an opportunity for an inter-sectoral response from the health and transport sectors to build safer, more equitable, and resilient transport systems.
Transport systems were responsible for converting a local epidemic into a pandemic, and they have been central to the pandemic response – transporting patients, essential workers, goods, and services – and will continue to be critical in the recovery phase as countries restructure ‘COVID safe’ transport systems and revamp their economies.
The report concludes by identifying areas that require urgent additional research, policy, and regulation development.