E-taxi services to transport only essential workers during lockdown

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 26 Mar 2020
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula. (Source: Twitter)
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula. (Source: Twitter)

E-hailing services will be allowed to transport only essential services workers, and those allowed to make permitted movements, during the 21-day lockdown period.

This was the word from transport minister Fikile Mbalula,addressing the media last night, during the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster media briefing held to look at government’s measures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced a three-week nation-wide lockdown, restricting travel, leisure, work, churchgoing and other aspects of life from midnight today.

The deadly pandemic, which has gripped nations across the globe, has seen 709 cases in SA, with no deaths so far.

Mbalula explained that all minibus taxis, metered taxis and e-hailing services will not be allowed to operate as normal for the duration of the 21-day lockdown; however, those transporting essential services workers will be permitted to operate.

“Metered taxis and e-hailing services will only be allowed to transport essential services workers and those people permitted to make movements. Metered taxis and e-hailing vehicles must be sanitised after every journey. The industry will take responsibility for this, and where appropriate, government will assist,” he stated.

The number of passengers each vehicle is allowed to carry will be also be significantly reduced, he continued.

A vehicle licensed to carry up to four people will now be permitted to load one person, while a vehicle permitted to carry up to eight passengers will only be permitted to carry three passengers.

In addition, public transport services will only be permitted to move during the morning and afternoon peak periods.

“Transport services in this regard will be allowed to operate only during morning and afternoon peak hours – from 5am to 9am and again from 4pm to 8pm. We will maintain skeleton staff for purposes of safe road operations, clearing of accidents, maintenance of tunnels as well as road traffic enforcement.”

Essential services include emergency and medical services, essential private security services,essential animal welfare and emergency veterinary services, essential government services and their core staff, transportation of fuel, food and basic goods supply trucks, and selected members of the media.

This week, ride-hailing service Bolt announced a partnership with hygiene and pest control services company Meridian Hygiene, to help drivers and passengers keep safe and sanitised by offering a free fogging service at its Johannesburg-based driver centre.

The fogging process uses biodegradable, non-toxic chemicals, and the Meridian Hygiene sanitising product.

Bolt says its drivers will also have access to hand sanitiser, surface disinfectant and protective face masks, at preferential rates, at a time when these commodities are scarce, difficult to find and frequently unfairly priced.

Uber says it is partnering with sanitiser manufacturers and distributors to source as much sanitiser as possible for its drivers and delivery people.

“The safety and well-being of everyone who uses Uber and Uber Eats is always our priority,” says an Uber spokesperson.

“In addition, we are supporting drivers and delivery people who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or placed in individual quarantine by a public health authority. Drivers and delivery people in these situations will receive financial assistance for a period of up to 14 days.”

In terms of minibus taxis and bus operations, Mbalula explained these will be allowed to transport only essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements.

“All cross-border road passenger movements will be prohibited for the duration of the lockdown and all international and domestic flights are also prohibited, irrespective of the risk category of their country of origin,” said Mbalula.