Hard-pressed taxi drivers hit by pandemic’s impact

by Rachel Darcy

Taxi drivers across Dublin have raised concerns about what will lie ahead for the industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With bars and clubs closed and social distancing being encouraged, taxi drivers on a popular forum have said there are little to no jobs available for drivers on Dublin’s streets as people stay home.

Many are staying home for their own safety, encouraging others to do the same as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Taxi app Lynk have issued guidelines for drivers that wish to continue operating during the pandemic, including asking passengers to sit in the backseat, as well as to regularly disinfect gear sticks, steering wheels and other regularly touched equipment. They have also encouraged for drivers to keep disinfectant wipes and sanitiser within their vehicles.

Another taxi app, FreeNow, have recommended that both drivers and passengers adhere strongly to HSE guidelines, and to avoid paying with cash where possible. They have also temporarily disabled their ‘match’ ride-sharing service.

When asked if he would take a taxi during the pandemic, PJ, told Dublin Gazette: “No, I don’t think I’ll be taking a taxi again any time soon, unless it was an emergency.

“Those guys [taxi men and women] are just trying to get by like the rest of us, and I know they’re affected pretty badly if we [passengers] all stop using them, but I’d rather play it safe. I don’t know who’s been in that cab before me.

“It’s probably someone who’s fine, but ‘probably’ isn’t good enough for me. I’m not taking the chance that maybe someone who’s sick, and doesn’t know it, was the passenger before me.

“I don’t know if [taxi drivers] can get the dole or something, but think the Government have to help them, for sure. If passengers aren’t going to get in their cars, someone has to help them get by.”

In a statement, the National Transport Authority said told Dublin Gazette they are asking all drivers to abide by HSE guidelines.

“The NTA is very much aware of the concerns of taxi drivers, as frontline public transport providers, in this rapidly evolving situation.

“Working closely with the Department of Health, the NTA issued COVID-19 HSE and public health information to all licence holders, and updates the Latest News section of our website as changes occur.

“We continue to ask all drivers and the public to exercise caution and follow HSE protection guidance at all times.”

Vinny Kearns, chief executive of Xpert Taxis, told Dublin Gazette that there is ‘relatively nothing on offer’ for drivers who are impacted by a loss of business.

“Union representatives for taxi drivers need to speak up, and make sure something is put in place. There’s nobody standing up for drivers, not in the way there needs to be at this stage.

“Our contract work at Xpert is down because offices have closed and people are working from home. 

“Taxi drivers average at about 57 years of age, with many drivers worried for their own health given their age. It’s a cause of grave concern. Our call centre staff are also worried about travelling on public transport.

“If public transport like the buses were to shut down, you’d need to use taxis. We also work with a lot of hospitals, bringing patients to and from appointments and transporting blood to other hospitals, so we need to stay open.

“We have a moral obligation to continue providing a taxi service.”

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