Bradford, UK – The Better Taxi Action Group has written to Bradford Council ask for help as its members cannot afford to pay the £300 it costs to fit the screens.
Spokesman Asif Shah said he had been told Leeds City Council has become the first local authority in England to make a contribution towards the fitting of screens, paying half of the cost.
Mr Shah, who works for Shipley Central, said: “It’s positive that Leeds has taken a lead.
“A protective screen cuts down on possible transmission and is also easier to clean than fabric after every trip.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of drivers and it would be a lot easier for the driver and passenger.”
He said Shipley Central had taken a lot of staff to local hospitals and patients leaving them and so far he was unaware of any taxi drivers in the city contracting Covid-19.
But he and colleagues were concerned that taxi drivers were among workers who have higher rates of death involving Covid-19 according to figures released this week.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), men working in several occupations had raised rates of deaths involving the disease when compared with people of the same age and sex in England and Wales.
Security guards had one of the highest rates with 45.7 deaths per 100,000, while taxi drivers and chauffeurs had a rate of 36.4.
He said all Shipley Central’s drivers who had been sent to the testing station in the car park at the University of Bradford had so far been tested negative.
However, Mr Shah said drivers frequently leave their vehicles and interact with different people and protective screens would help with safety as they or a passenger might be carrying the virus without showing any symptoms.
He said: “We would look at some sort of contribution or loan.
“£300 if significant and drivers are thinking twice about safety.
“A lot have chosen to stay at home. Some are looking at it but they are not making enough money to pay for it.”
In the letter to Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe, BTAG says: “Given the government’s commitment to support key workers, the taxi trade in Bradford would like to kindly request that some sort of funding or support is made available to help assist drivers fit protection screens in their vehicles.
“The average cost at the moment is around £300. The vast majority of private hire cars are driver owned. These drivers are already under extreme financial pressure with reduced passengers and having been off work self isolating.
“Not only will shields help protect drivers, they will also help reduce the risk to the public from drivers who are in daily contact with many.
“Could we also recommend that taxi services are promoted as an alternative to buses to help maintain social distancing. Taxi fares have generally not increased in the last 15 years and start from as little as £2.50. Many firms are also offering deals discounts for key workers.”
A spokesperson for Leeds Council said the policy on screens was something they have had in place for around ten years which is not specifically related to coronavirus. “We do have a current policy that we will subsidise some of the cost of installation of approved safety screens and CCTV up to the value of £250.
A spokesperson for Bradford Council said: “We have received this letter requesting funding for taxi driver protection screens and we will be considering a response in the next few days. We believe that all workers facing extra risks from Coronavirus should be adequately protected.