The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) will push for early Covid-19 vaccine roll out for the taxi industry’s workforce when distribution begins.
The industry says its employees are most at risk of contracting the pandemic because of the environment in which they operate where they are in close proximity with thousands and thousands of commuters daily. Dr Zweli Mkhize, in his first official statement when an announcement was made about the arrival of the extra Zeneca, which has since been declared ineffective in the fight against Covid-19 – had said the taxi industry would also be prioritized as an essential service provider.
Alpheus Mlalazi, general secretary of the NTA and Thabisho Molelekwa, who is Santaco spokesperson believe that government would also include the minibus taxi sector as part of the essential service providers because of the industry’s ability to ferry millions of people to work daily.
“If would be a serious omission….taxi drivers interact with 50 million commuters every day….can you imagine the level of spread that could happen?,” asked Mlalazi.
He said many taxi operators were working at a big loss at the moment as some have had their vehicles repossessed by banks and other financial lenders when the country first went into lockdown in March last year.
“The business of every taxi operator in every town and every province is just so depressed. They’re losing their taxis and in the next few months, many families supported by taxis will be charity cases,” Mlalazi said, adding that no passenger would be allowed into a taxi without wearing a face mask.
Molelekwa said because of the huge responsibility carried by the taxi industry in transporting many people every day, the government would do better to consider extending the early roll out even to the taxis.
“We hope we will be considered: we are not health workers, we are a transportation platform that allows workers or do their jobs and save lives. So, we ear interconnected. And so, you cannot save one without the other,” he said.
Molelekwa has warned the government about the danger of not treating taxi drivers as potential carriers of the virus since they interact with many people.
“Taxi drivers potential super-spreaders of the virus. If one commuter is infected, that person can pass it down to the others, so it is imperative that the industry is protected,” said Molelekwa.
The minibus taxi industry in South Africa has 200 000 on the roads and employees about 400 000 people such as taxi drivers, taxi rank marshals and office administrators.