The SA National Taxi Association (Santaco) is mobilising taxi drivers to join Covid-19 vaccination queues, a move it hopes will help the industry get back on its feet after enduring income losses over the past year.
Santaco spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa said the association is partnering with the transport department to expand its role in mitigating the spread of Covid-19.
The taxi industry has complied with government restrictions, including reducing the number of passengers for long-distance trips to 70% of their capacity.
“We have made a call to all taxi drivers to register in their numbers for vaccination. The problem with the taxi industry is that we find ourselves a carrier and spreader of Covid-19 and we need to be wise,” Molelekwa said.
He said taxi drivers are at a higher risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19 because they work with multiple loads of passengers daily and this involves exchanging cash during trips.
He said the risk of taxi drivers spreading Covid-19 to passengers was a cause for concern.
“Vaccination is voluntary. The country has not got to a point where vaccination is mandatory. We are looking at ways in which taxi drivers can be motivated to vaccinate without being forced,” he said.
Molelekwa said the taxi industry is still experiencing financial losses with long-distance travelling and commuting.
He said the industry continues to lose income because unvaccinated drivers are not permitted to travel with passengers beyond the border.
“When drivers offload passengers at the border, they lose more money on top of the regulations which require us to load 70% of capacity,” he said.
Molelekwa said tackling misinformation and conspiracy theories will present challenges for the vaccine rollout among taxi drivers.
“I cannot hide the fact that these mixed messages about the vaccine continue to instil fear in those who want to get vaccinated. We are not the custodians of vaccination messaging. We urge the government to speak more clearly and consistently.”