The Limpopo provincial government believes that it is important for the taxi ranks and vehicles to be disinfected in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Polokwane city centre taxi rank and other municipalities in the province.
This follows a sharp and unprecedented rise in Covid-19 positive cases and deaths in the Polokwane taxi rank in the city centre. There have been four reported deaths of some of the well-known taxi owners in the area. A total of eight drivers have tested positive between 17-22 January. The Polokwane main rank is mainly used by Seshego Polokwane Taxi Association (SPTA) and the Moletjie Taxi Association. The two associations share the facility with the Mangkweng Taxi Association and ferry around 18,000 passengers daily.
Limpopo MEC for transport and community liaison Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya and her department are at the moment overseeing the disinfection of minibus taxis and ranks across the province to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Between 18-22, she and her department had already been to various municipalities such as Vhembe that includes place like Thohoyandou – one of the many areas in Limpopo with lots of taxis.
“We are focusing on two issues: the first one is that we are talking to taxi drivers on the importance of wearing masks because when they are at the taxi ranks they need to always wear their masks and keep the social distances. Number two, we are distributing the disinfectants through the office of executive mayors and the relevant taxi associations to say ‘let’s disinfect the taxis and the ranks,” said Lerule-Ramakhanya.
Meanwhile, MEC for Health in Limpopo, Dr Phophi Ramathuba says that it is the responsibility of taxi associations to ensure that passengers adhere to Covid-19 protocols. This comes after some taxi owners and drivers had indicated that they did not have enough money to buy protective equipment for Covid-19 because they were still waiting for the R3,1-billion government Covid-19 taxi relief fund.
“It’s not the department’s job to sanitize or disinfect taxis. The taxi industry is a private sector and owners and associations should see to it that their people comply,” said Ramathuba.
At the same time, health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize is reported to have said that among the front line workers who would be prioritized when the Covid-19 vaccine doses are purchased and become available in February will be taxi drivers.
Mkhize, who was in Limpopo’s Tshilidzini hospital in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, added that his department would also announce the addition of more Covid-19 doses to the 20 million already being purchased.
“We need to get healthcare workers to be at the forefront and then we’ll make sure teachers, police and people who are working in overcrowded settings – taxi drivers, waiters and so on are prioritized so that we are able to give them vaccines so that we can reduce the spread of the infections,” said Mkhize.
He also still could not yet reveal the cost of the procurement as figures were still being consolidated.