NEWS & ANALYSIS

My worry is the people we transport - Johannesburg taxi driver

Some drivers say they are in the dark about virus and are not prepared to deal with the outbreak

Coronavirus: 'My worry is the people we transport' - Johannesburg taxi driver

20 March 2020

Johannesburg taxi drivers say they need to be equipped with more knowledge about the symptoms and prevention of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

On Thursday, some drivers told News24 that they were in the dark about coronavirus and were not prepared to deal with the outbreak.

The industry ferries millions of passengers nationwide, which could result in the virus easily spreading from one person to another.

Drivers said they didn’t have gloves or masks to cover their mouths and noses or hand sanitisers.

Taxi driver Solly Chauke said he was not prepared to deal with the virus and only possessed little information about coronavirus.

"I think we are going to meet later today, and our leaders will explain to us how to behave and treat passengers," said Chauke.

Chauke’s colleague Xolani Zulu said the little information he had about the virus was from listening to the radio.

"I am not afraid at all. My worry is the people that we transport because they can easily infect each other and us as drivers in various ways.

"I rely on my radio to inform me. More than that, I don’t have information, except to regularly wash hands, use hand sanitisers and to wear masks. However, I don’t have any of those.

"I have not been provided with chemicals to disinfect my vehicle. I am praying to God that my passengers don't contract the virus. From what I have heard, the coronavirus is dangerous and, if undermined, it can kill you," said Zulu.

Daniel Nemavhulana said drivers relied on filling stations to get access to hand sanitisers.

"Many garages that we deal with are providing us with hand sanitisers. Our main worry is the exchange of money from one person to the other. We have been warned not to touch money with our bare hands, but without gloves we have no option - we have to touch and count it.

"For now, we haven’t heard about one of us being infected. We plead with our passengers to wear masks and gloves to prevent the virus from spreading," Nemavhulana said.

Another taxi driver, Dumisani Maluleke, said he became more worried about the virus when a passenger told him on Wednesday that her employer had asked her to bring her belongings, so she could stay at her place of employment.

"The woman is a domestic worker. She said her employer had asked to stay at her workplace until the virus had been contained. She said her employer was worried about her health and those she was living with in Soweto.

"Initially, when the pandemic started, we joked a lot about it. We are no longer joking because it is here and many people have tested positive," Maluleke said.

Passengers also expressed fear of travelling to and from work using a taxi.

Commuter Nkosinathi Nkosi said it was easy for the virus to be transmitted among passengers. He had secured a mask and gloves, which he wore whenever he boarded a taxi.

"I don’t want to get sick. People inside taxis cough and sneeze all the time. I am always protected. I don’t touch money with my bare hands. I use gloves to touch money.

"This virus is here, and we need to [be] careful with our hygiene. It can easily spread by coughing and sneezing. As passengers, we must always protect ourselves," Nkosi said.

Another commuter, Dumisani Mathasa, said: "We interact with strangers daily and we don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t. Our vehicles don’t have hand sanitisers and I don’t think that they are being disinfected daily as required."

Fellow passenger Sabelo Ndlovu said he hoped the virus didn't spread further and urged people to adhere with all measures put in place to ensure the virus was contained.

On Wednesday, South African National Taxi Alliance president Phillip Taaibosch told the nation that they were ready to deal with the pandemic.

He demonstrated to the media how taxis and taxi ranks would be disinfected, and called on all attached to the industry to practise clean hygiene and treat their clients with respect. He urged them not to discriminate against anyone coughing or sneezing inside their vehicles.

As of Thursday, 150 people had tested positive for Covid-19.

News24