COVID-19 minicab and NHS staff social distancing concerns raised as passengers sit half metre apart

A London taxi representative has highlighted concerns as private hire drivers transporting key NHS staff around the capital sit no more than half a metre apart.

Earlier this week Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), wrote to Transport for London’s (TFL) Helen Chapman, to detail concerns over social distancing issues in the capital’s minicabs, which goes against current government advice.

It was claimed that passengers sitting in a standard Toyota Prius minicab would only be a maximum 0.5 metres away from an unprotected or shielded private hire driver. It is government advice that the public stand at least 2 metres apart.

The LTDA General Secretary also highlighted the porous nature of the vehicle's interior designed for everyday family life, making the minicab more difficult to clean and disinfect.

Numerous minicab operators in London have offered free or cut-price offers to NHS staff and key workers, a move which the LTDA describes as “outrageous”.

Two models in the London licensed black cab fleet do however exceed the minimum 2 metre distancing advice according to the LTDA. The electric LEVC TX and the Mercedes Vito both provide the advised safe distance between driver and passenger and also provides a partition between both parties whilst travelling.

Steve McNamara wrote in the letter sent on 2 April to TfL’s Licensing, Regulation and Charging Director, Helen Chapman, saying: “My understanding of the government advice is to self-distance at lest 2 meters.

“In most licensed PHVs (private hire vehicles) this is obviously impossible, in fact in a typical Prius, in an enclosed confined space, the maximum distance between driver and passenger can only be an absolute maximum 0.5 metres and if the passenger is sitting behind or next to the driver much less. I would suggest the phrase “cheek by jowl” is appropriate.

Image: Letter sent by LTDA to TfL

“Many NHS workers are high risk by the nature of what they do, were an infected worker to travel in a PHV, as described, the risk the driver could contract it must be high. It must also be borne in mind that most PHVs, being ordinary saloon cars, are designed and built using materials chosen for comfort and aesthetics and not for cleaning or disinfecting purposes and therefore the risk of contamination must also be high.

“If another key NHS worker, or and crucial staff then travel in the same vehicle or with the same driver the risk and likelihood of spreading the virus to members of the group are, frankly, frightening. The thought that NHS workers are being targeted or encouraged to put themselves, their colleagues and others at risk in this way is similarly outrageous.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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