Home News Taxi drivers ‘scared’ of transporting Covid-19 positive passengers block city street

Taxi drivers ‘scared’ of transporting Covid-19 positive passengers block city street

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Spooked taxi operators pointed out that there were so many stores in the city that were closing, adding that they were exposing themselves to the virus as they were expected to transport employees being sent home.

Spooked taxi operators pointed out that there were so many stores in the city that were closing, adding that they were exposing themselves to the virus as they were expected to transport employees being sent home. Picture: Soraya Crowie

FEAR of contracting the Coronavirus resulted in taxi operators in Kimberley blockading York Street in the Kimberley CBD after drivers refused to transport any passengers following the closure of Shoprite on Monday due to a Covid-19 positive case.

Spooked taxi operators pointed out that there were so many stores in the city that were closing, adding that they were exposing themselves to the virus as they were expected to transport employees being sent home.

“We have many stores that are forced to close because an employee has tested positive. The majority of the co-workers, who are sent home because the store has closed, are reliant on public transport and make use of our taxis. 

“A Shoprite employee has tested positive and the majority of those employees are reliant on taxis to get to and from work. We are not certain when exactly the person tested positive and who all he or she has been in contact with,” taxi operators said on Monday morning.

“We are continuously at risk of contracting the virus as we are responsible for transporting these people from town to their respective area. Because this virus is in the air it is very hard to see who is sick. 

“We are at risk of being infected, as that employee who tested positive, has to make use of a taxi to get home. 

“We have been informed that all passengers must wear masks when they get into the taxi. However our vehicles are not disinfected and neither are the taxi ranks. We are expected to continue operating although we are afraid of putting ourselves at risk of contracting this virus. The only sanitiser we have is the one that we use to spray on passengers before they enter the vehicle. The taxi association does not supply us with disinfectants for our vehicles and even the sanitisers we use on our passengers we have to purchase ourselves.”

Operators said their concerns fell on deaf ears.

“We had a meeting with the executive of the Kimberley Taxi Association last Wednesday where we raised the issues pertaining to protective personal equipment and sanitisors. We suggested that those drivers who do not wear masks should be dismissed from their duties. It has now become a criminal offence not to wear a mask yet there are so many people who do not adhere to this law. We are at risk each day as we have to transport people who might have contracted the virus but the taxi association does not recognise our concerns,” they said.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) provincial chairperson, Mazwi Nkonki, meanwhile dismissed claims by the operators, stating that they were supplied with the necessary equipment to clean their vehicles.

“We have received consignments of sanitisers  and spray machines from various bodies, such as Toyota South Africa and the Department of Transport. Those consignments were distributed amongst the different taxi associations in the Province. We have sprayed the taxis to disinfect them. The operators do not want to buy sanitisers for themselves and their passengers. Taxis are loading at 100% capacity and can surely afford their own sanitisers. We understand that there might be a shortage of supplies but the associations are also responsible to supply their members with the necessary safety equipment,” said Nkonki.

The local organiser of the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, Anthony Kgobi, said it was the second incident at the store and workers were previously expected to continue working.

“The person who tested positive had been in contact with other employees, yet it is business as usual at the store. The employees are only screened and have to continue with their duties. This is very unacceptable,” said Kgobi.

Shoprite confirmed that incident and said the provincial Department of Health would pave the way forward.

“Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, the Shoprite Group has proactively acted to safeguard our employees and customers and will continue to do whatever is within our power to protect their well-being and health. When a positive case is confirmed, the required procedures are followed, taking into consideration when last an employee was at work, and if necessary, the store is closed. 

“Following positive Covid-19 testing at Shoprite Kimberley, we closed this store and brought in a professional decontamination company to sanitise and deep-clean the store. 

“An employee screening programme, supported by the company’s mobile clinic, was immediately put into place. Where necessary, those with close contact are required to self-quarantine. We are working closely with the various authorities and the store will be reopened in consultation with the Provincial Department of Health,” said the media team.

The Kimberley Taxi Association could not be contacted for comment.