Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA
Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA

The minibus taxi industry, which transports more than 16-million passengers a day across SA, is set to hold crisis talks on Thursday aimed at curbing the potential spread of the Covid-19 virus in the sector.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Coronavirus a national disaster on Sunday, and announced sweeping measures to contain its spread, including travel restrictions on foreigners from hard-hit countries, a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people, and the closure of schools.

Ramaphosa also stated that the government further discouraged all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and buses, as the virus continued to take its toll, The number of confirmed cases in SA has risen to 61.

On Monday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said there would be random screening of passengers for Covid-19 at all taxi ranks and train stations.

Mbalula said he will be engaging with the stakeholders in the  transport sector before issuing instructions and consolidate plans.

He said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) would sanitise all of its trains and called on all taxi operators to also do the same with their vehicles.

“The social distancing will affect us in terms of taxis ... random testing will be applied in all the taxi ranks and all the trains but equally taxis will also be expected to undergo sanitisation,” Mbalula said.

Phillip Taaibosch, president of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), the largest taxi organisation in the country, told Business Day on Monday that it would embark on campaigns to raise awareness about the virus, which has rattled investors and put global markets in a tailspin.

“We are planning on seeing what critical role we can play as the taxi industry in ensuring that our drivers and passengers are safe,” said Taaibosch.

“We transport more than 16.5-million passengers on any given day across the country. We also have got hawkers who sell food at taxi ranks, so we believe it becomes our responsibility as Santaco to ensure that those people are safe as well, so that we can reduce or even kill the spread of this virus.”

Taaibosch said he would meet his committee on Thursday and more effective measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus would be “on top of the agenda”.

Tumisang Kgaboesele, CEO of intercity bus company Africa People Mover, said all employees that displayed flu symptoms “have been directed not to come to work”. He said they are also “stepping up” the cleaning of coaches on a daily basis, and are looking at scaling down their services.

“We are anticipating that we will be short-staffed, so it’s only prudent that we look at downscaling our services. At the end of the day it all boils down to hygiene: so we are communicating with our employees on what hygiene standards they have to uphold, to curb the spread of the virus,” said Kgaboesele.

Metrobus senior manager for strategy and development, Tshepo Nathan, said they will release a statement “no later than 4pm” on Monday, which will touch on a number of precautionary measures for commuters and their drivers as they are “in frequent contact with commuters”.

Metrorail Gauteng spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng referred questions to Prasa spokesperson, Makhosini Mgitywa, who said they will issue a statement later on Monday.

Prasa operates Metrorail, long-distance buses City to City and TransLux and intercity train service Shosholoza Meyl.

City of Tshwane spokesperson Omogolo Taunyane referred questions to communications executive director Selby Bokaba, who said: “I know that there is a meeting at the moment ... that is discussing plans to curb the spread of Covid-19” and that a statement will be issued later.

National carrier SAA has said it uses sanitation procedures for all domestic and international flights, and that all its aircraft are loaded with cleaning materials.

“We have implemented revised cleaning procedures, to focus on high-frequency touch points such as handles, seat belt buckles, tray tables and armrests. And all hard surfaces such as lavatories, and window shades are thoroughly wiped with multipurpose cleaners,” the state-owned airline announced recently.

“Should health authorities inform the airline that a person who travelled with SAA exhibited coronavirus symptoms, the aircraft will be taken out of service and put through a decontamination process.” With Genevieve Quintal


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