Italian taxi drivers are obliged to go to work despite there being no demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Italy became the European epicentre for the emerging coronavirus pandemic, all eyes have been locked on the nation to see how communities and industries are tackling the deadly virus.
So far, coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 6,820 Italian citizens. However it is reported that Italy’s strict lockdown measures have helped the COVID-19 infection rate drop for a fourth successive day.
The taxi industry in Italy, like most industries in the country, has been hit heavily since the outbreak changed peoples' daily lives. Total lockdowns and no tourism has provided very little work to a once vibrant trade.
A spokesperson from taxi union Unione Radiotaxi d'Italia (URI), who are members of European taxi industry representatives TaxiEurope Alliance (TEA), said the demand for taxis is almost at zero, but drivers cannot choose not to go to work.
The Unione Radiotaxi d'Italia said: “Taxis in Italy, as services of general economic interest, have an obligation to guarantee a certain supply of the taxi service, despite of the actual offer.
“This means that even though there are no trips for hours, taxi drivers need to stand in a certain area to provide the service just in case someone needs it (for example doctors, nurses, the elderly, pharmacists or those who work in the food supply chain). Taxi drivers therefore cannot choose not to go out.
“Following the corona virus outbreak, the drop in demand is almost total – about 95/99%.
“In bigger cities, such as Florence, there are stands of 5/6 hours and, even though about only 10% of the taxi fleet is operating, there are drivers who return home without even having made a ride. Basically, if everyone exercised his usual right to work, about 90% of taxi drivers would not even make one ride.
“Obviously in smaller cities the situation is even more critical.”
The drivers' union also highlighted new measures brought in last week by the Italian Ministry of Transport that ensures taxi drivers provide their services equipped with protective masks and gloves. There is also a ban on passengers sitting next to the driver and no more than two customers can occupy the backseats at any one time.
The Italian taxi union added: “Some drivers have handcrafted transparent bulkheads to isolate the front seats from the back seats, hoping that this system will reduce the risk of contagion between the passenger and the driver.
“It is crucial to guarantee financial support for those who must still continue to provide the service, as it is absolutely uneconomical for them.”
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