Toronto, Canada – The union representing Toronto Pearson Airport taxi drivers says four of its members have died due to COVID-19.
Rajinder Aujla, the president of the Airport Taxi Association, said all four drivers died within the last month and a half, including 50-year-old Kamal Dhami. It is unclear where the drivers contracted the virus.
Aujla, who told Global News he knew three of the drivers personally, called the situation “very painful.” He said another driver passed along the virus to his father, who ultimately passed away.
“Most of the drivers have been overlooked since the beginning [of the pandemic],” he said. “Not even now, they don’t have much safety gear.”
Aujla said if there were better measures in place to protect drivers then the deaths could have possibly been prevented.
It is not only airport taxi drivers who are concerned for their safety though, as Kristine Hubbard, spokesperson for Beck Taxi, said she’s concerned about the mixed messaging being put out from government agencies for both drivers and riders.
“It’s shocking because you never hope you’re going to be right about something. We knew that people being picked up from the airport would create a higher level of risk to the drivers picking them up. We have some concerns about some of the mixed messaging,” she said.– City of Toronto working with Beck Taxi over COVID-19 concerns
Earlier in April, City of Toronto officials released measures to help protect taxi and ride-share drivers.
Outlined in the release was that all sick drivers should be urged to remain home without fear of repercussions.
Drivers were also told to “emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene” for themselves and their passengers.
Hubbard said that in the city there’s messaging that says people who are isolating should not be getting into a taxi.
However, she said there is fine print that says passengers who need to go to an assessment centre and have no family or friends that can take them, can then take a taxi.
Hubbard is concerned, however, that passengers don’t want to put their family and friends at risk so they choose instead to take a taxi, thus putting the drivers at risk.
“They’re willing to put a taxi driver or ride hail driver at that risk and it’s the opposite of trying to isolate the spread of the virus,” she said.
It isn’t just the general population that taxi drivers are concerned about either.– How to social distance in taxis and rideshare vehicles
“We’re transporting frontline workers to and from assessment centres, but what we didn’t realize was that from those assessment centers, patients who were tested and maybe didn’t know their results yet … and they didn’t have masks on when they got into the vehicles [taxis],” she said.
“It’s a lack of understanding about what should happen,” she told Global News.
Hubbard said drivers are wearing masks and a lot of them have proactively installed shields in their vehicles. She said they are also not allowed more than two adult passengers at a time and no one is allowed to sit in the front seat.
As of Thursday afternoon, Ontario reported 16,187 coronavirus cases and 1,082 deaths.
– Source: Jessica Patton – globalnews.ca