The United Private Hire Drivers group (UPHD) have criticised Transport for London's decision to refuse safety screens in private hire vehicles, saying drivers and passengers are being put at risk.
A spokesperson for the UPHD, said: "As commuters return to work and are advised to avoid public transport, demand for private hire services is likely to sky-rocket. Without immediate regulatory intervention to control infection in the industry, we are likely to see another spike in driver deaths and also passengers.
"Transport for London has relied on central government guidance which in turn has been confused and contradictory. In response to a pre-action letter sent by United Private Hire Drivers, government lawyers from the Department for Health and Social Care, incorrectly advised it is NHS policy that protective screens in vehicles separating drivers and passengers are not required for the protection of NHS staff and volunteers. Government lawyers then suggested we follow this faulty advice.
"In fact, NHS guidelines for staff and volunteers transport service providers mandates that separation screens must be fitted to protect drivers from the risk of infection and that vehicles must be disinfected daily.
"Last Thursday, Transport for London convened an industry Covid-19 industry safety summit with firms such as Uber, Ola, Bolt, Kapten and Addison Lee present, but dedicated representation for private hire drivers was excluded.
"The outcome of the meeting is a continued ban on safety screens in vehicles despite ONS data showing the Covoid-19 death rate among private hire drivers amongst the highest in all occupations."
According to latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics, taxi and private hire drivers are among those most likely to contract and die from COVID-19 based on an overview of data which analysed deaths within particular occupations of those aged 20 to 64.
The road transport sector - considered a major group within the data research - taxi, private hire drivers and chauffeurs had the highest rate of deaths from COVID-19, with 36.4 deaths per 100,000 males.
The UPHD is running an emergency crowdfunding appeal to seek a judicial review claiming the failure of the government and the Mayor of London to regulate and protect the lives of licensed private hire drivers and their passengers.
James Farrar, Chair of United Private Hire Drivers said: “Institutional racism and a less than arms-length relationship between minicab bosses, the government and Transport for London is the root cause of a soaring Covid-19 death rate amongst licensed private hire drivers.
"It is time for the Health Secretary and the Mayor of London to regulate industry safety and if they can’t do that, they must stop blocking drivers from taking the initiative themselves to install protective safety screens.”
Image credit: Pixabay/UPHD