Thailand – The Thai Air Force on Thursday unveiled its prototype for a new device to be installed in taxis in Thailand to help reduce the spread of the Covid 19 infection.
It comes as there are reports that many large fleets and taxi garages, in Bangkok and Thailand, are facing a financial challenge as demand for taxi services has plummeted due to the devastating coronavirus outbreak.
Safety concerns amongst taxi drivers and passengers as the virus thrives in enclosed ventilated places
There have also been heightened concerns about the safety of taxis among both taxi users and drivers.
On April 21st, the Covid 19 centre announced the death of a 50-year old taxi driver who had picked up a fare at the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok where an event in early March sparked Thailand’s most dangerous cluster or spread of the disease.
There have also been a number of high profile cases of taxi drivers being infected after picking up foreign tourists.
A taxi or any car, because of the enclosed space of the vehicle with air conditioning, is one of the most dangerous atmospheres for the spread of this virus which we now know can spread also through aerosol contact.
Air Vice-Marshal of Royal Thai Air Force unveils bulkhead barrier solution on Thursday to the press
On Thursday, Air Vice Marshal and deputy director of the Directorate of Aeronautical Engineering at the Royal Thai Air Force, Kitsom Phankosol, presented a number of taxi compartment separators to five taxi fleets and garages in the Bangkok area.
The divider prototype has been designed by engineers at the Royal Thai Air Force. It is based on the bulkhead barrier of an aircraft.
On Thursday, it was suggested that the device was the brainchild of the director of the air force’s design department. It is to be reproduced and installed by taxi firms.
Five Bangkok taxi fleets presented with prototypes
Five firms were presented with prototypes of the bulkhead barrier.
These were Suvarnabhumi Gold Taxi Cooperative, Bang Son Taxi Garage, Pradiphat Taxi Station, Rama 5 Garage and Ekarat Transport Company Limited.
The devices have several fans with filters to allow for airflow even as it creates two separate compartments within the taxi.
The airflow is filtered to collect particles larger than 0.3 microns as well as germs, bacteria or viruses from aerosol with a block rate of 99.97% of saliva secretions.
The barrier, made from polycarbonate, is highly durable and is also transparent so that passengers can see into the driver’s compartment and the fare meter.
The units also help reduce noise levels in the taxi.
Top air force officer demonstrates the device
Air Vice-Marshal Kitsom Phankosol demonstrated the device installed on a standard taxi.
He demonstrated where there was a special opening where the fare can be transferred to the driver.
The senior Air Force official said that the air force was extremely concerned about the difficulties being experienced by Thailand’s commercial sector and workers including taxi drivers at this time.
He said he anticipated strong demand for the new barrier.
Designed to fit 2017 to 2018 Toyota models
The design of the barrier has been made to fit the Toyota Altis range of cars from 2017 to 2018 which is the most popular kind of taxi in service in Thailand.
It can be installed without any modification to the vehicle and easily removed again if required. The cost of producing and installing each unit is estimated by air force experts at ฿2,500 to ฿2,700 per installation.
Face masks must still be worn
Air force officers point out that in addition to these new devices, all passengers and taxi drivers should still wear face masks under the government’s plans to bring the country back to a ‘new normal’ until this unprecedented virus threat has finally retreated and been finished off.