100% loads double-edge for drivers
Siyabonga Hlongwane's worst fear is to contract Covid-19 while on duty.
The taxi driver affiliated to the Faraday Taxi Association was one of 350 drivers whose taxis were installed with Covid-19 compliant features at Bree Taxi Rank in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Another 250 taxis underwent the same process at Bara Taxi Rank in Soweto yesterday while 138 taxis, including scholar transport vehicles, were installed with them in Alexandra last weekend.
"I have three children who I live with. I am scared that I might get this virus from one of my rides and then take it home to them. It's scary because we now load full capacities so the risk [of infection] is higher," Hlongwane said.
He said their existence as taxi drivers was a double-edged sword, but with the new measures that at least one side is slightly blunted.
"If we don't load full capacities we can't make ends meet, but when we do, there is a higher chance of catching it [Covid-19]. Even if it's not me, a passenger can pass it on to another passenger," he said.
Last week, minister of transport Fikile Mbalula announced that under the new regulations of lockdown level 3 public transport vehicle windows must be kept open by 5cm on both sides. He said vehicles must be fitted with window jammers or blockers to keep windows open.
As part of the measures installed, taxis were fitted with ventilation spacers on windows, which prevent commuters from closing them. Only the taxi operator can remove them. In addition, hand sanitising stations were also installed at the door of each taxi to be used on entry and exit.
"As hard as I try, I can't always be checking whether the windows are open or not. It's winter and people will close the window by instinct. I have to make sure that everyone has the masks on properly, and I have to keep my eyes on the road. Ensuring that windows are open would have added stress to my task," he said.
The project is a Supplier Demand Initiative (SDI) Force's Adopt-a-Safe-Passage to Work/School campaign to decrease the spread of infection in taxis. Zuza Mbatha, executive director at Momba Projects which worked with SDI, urged businesses to contribute to the initiative as it benefited their workforce.
Jeffery Gama, secretary of Faraday Taxi Association, said measures need to be taken if the industry is to safely conduct business as usual.
Commuter Reuben Nakedi doesn't think it's a good idea to allow 100% full capacity loads.
"It's winter now. We are going to get sick because we are driving around in taxis that have windows open. Maybe he Mbalula] could have delayed this move until it was warmer and kept the loads at 70%."
Another commuter Pretty Moleleki said taxi drivers needed to be protected as well.
"They come across so many people every day, it's important that they are protected and that they don't spread it."