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DfT release new COVID-19 taxi and private hire vehicle guidance on ‘Freedom Day’


New guidance and actions for drivers, operators and owners of taxis or private hire vehicles (PHV) to take to protect against coronavirus have been released by the Department for Transport (DfT) today.


The DfT urge those in the industry and passengers to follow the new guidance even if they have been vaccinated as they could still spread COVID-19 to others.

The guidance, which only applies in England, arrives today on so-called "freedom day" when most remaining legal COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.


From 19 July, different rules may apply in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales particularly around the use of face coverings on public transport and in taxis. Drivers and operators can check the guidance for the other UK nations here:


THE DRIVER


Self-employed taxi and PHV drivers should conduct a risk assessment to understand the risks and what they can do about them. Each driver should think about how they work and ways they can protect themselves and their passengers.

Regular testing is recommended as part of the risk assessment. Everyone in England can now receive regular tests and as a person who comes into contact with members of the public the DfT have urged taxi and PHV drivers to consider getting tested regularly.


Government are also urging those drivers not already vaccinated to consider getting vaccinated when they are invited.


As a driver, there is no need to write anything down about the risk assessment.


As part of the risk assessment undertaken, taxi and PHV drivers may decide they want to install a safety screen behind the front row seats to separate themselves from the passengers in the rear of the vehicle. The decision on whether to use a screen rests with the driver and the local licensing authority. If fitting one, guidance on how to choose and fit a screen safely in a vehicle is available.


To help control the spread of COVID-19, drivers should download and use the NHS COVID-19 app.


Picking up passengers


Before a passenger enters the vehicle, drivers are urged to ask passengers if they have:

  • coronavirus symptoms – a fever, new cough or loss of smell or taste

  • had a positive coronavirus test in the last 10 days.

Taxi and PHV driver should refuse service if they have.


Drivers should wash or sanitise their hands if they come into contact with a passenger or their luggage. All cabbies should do this before and after contact.


Importantly, drivers of both taxis and PHVs must continue to provide support to disabled passengers to safely enter and exit the vehicle. All drivers must continue to assist disabled passengers with their luggage and mobility equipment.


In the vehicle and face coverings


COVID-19 spreads through the air by droplets and aerosols that are exhaled from the nose and mouth of an infected person.


Open windows when carrying passengers and/or use the car’s vents to bring in fresh air from outside. Drivers should continue NOT using the recirculated air option for the car’s ventilation system when carrying passengers.

Image credit: LEVC

The requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.


The DfT say drivers do not have to wear a face covering, but the transport body do recommend that drivers do if it does not affect the ability to drive safely. Local licensing authorities or operators may ask drivers to wear a face covering. Taxi and PHV drivers should follow their guidance if it does not affect the ability to drive safely.


When wearing a face covering:

  • it is important to wash or sanitise hands before and after touching the face covering

  • use a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin to dispose of it – drivers should not put face coverings in a recycling bin or drop them as litter

  • be mindful that a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound The Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. It is recommended passengers wear a face covering when using a taxi or private hire vehicle.


End of journey – leaving the vehicle

Urge passengers to make contactless payment if they can.


If not, drivers should wash their hands with soap and water or sanitiser after handling money and remind passengers to wash or sanitise their hands after the journey.


Preparing your vehicle for the next passenger


When a person infected with COVID-19 coughs, talks or breathes, they release droplets and aerosols which can be breathed in by another person. While larger droplets fall quickly to the ground, smaller droplets and aerosols containing the virus that causes COVID-19 can remain suspended in the air for some time indoors, especially if there is no ventilation.

Ventilation is the process of replacing this shared air with fresh air from the outside.


The more ventilated an area is, the more fresh air there is to breathe, and the less likely a person is to inhale infectious particles.


Surfaces and belongings can also be contaminated with COVID-19, when people who are infected cough or sneeze near them or if they touch them.


Between every journey taxi and PHV drivers should:

  • clean those parts of the vehicle that the driver or passengers may have touched, for example, door handles, payment devices, protective screens, buttons, seats

  • open doors and windows to ventilate the car for 5 minutes

  • wash hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser.


If drivers have coronavirus symptoms or have been told to self-isolate


Taxi and PHV drivers should not work if they have coronavirus symptoms or have been told to self-isolate. If any drivers have coronavirus symptoms they should get a test as soon as possible and should stay at home until they get the result.


Financial help for drivers

If cabbies are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, they may be entitled to a payment of £500 from their local council under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.


Self-employed drivers may also be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.


PHV OPERATORS AND TAXI INTERMEDIARIES

PHV operators and taxi intermediaries that are employers must carry out a risk assessment in line with government guidance.


If the company has fewer than 5 workers including non-drivers (dispatchers, booking agents etc), they don’t have to write anything down as part of the risk assessment.


Providing health information to drivers and passengers

Operators should provide health information to drivers and passengers through their smartphone apps, text message and displaying posters within operating centres. They should also:

  • encourage drivers to read the drivers' guidance

  • display posters to remind drivers and passengers of hygiene good practice – stickers or notices used in the vehicle should not reduce the driver’s view through the windscreen and front windows, or their view of mirrors

  • share messages to encourage drivers and passengers to download and use the NHS COVID-19 app

  • remind passengers to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before entering the vehicle.

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