Scottish private hire drivers demand screens after Covid-19 deaths
United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), the biggest association of its kind in Scotland, said there had been six such deaths among private hire and taxi drivers north of the Border.
Half of those deaths have been in Glasgow.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported on Monday that male taxi drivers were among occupations with the highest Covid-19 death rates.
The rate of death was 36.4 per 100,000 people amongst taxi drivers and chauffeurs in England, according to the ONS figures.
London minicab firm Addison Lee announced today it is to install screens between drivers and passengers in 4,000 vehicles from next week.
UPHD Glasgow chair Barry Sloan said: “In this epidemic, everyone is unsure what the best course of action is regarding safety.
“We turned to Glasgow City Council for guidance to be fobbed off and told no screens allowed.
“We stated that member drivers are catching Covid-19 and unfortunately some have passed away from the virus.
“We’ve insisted that the screen partitions must be allowed to safeguard our lives, which the council have simply brushed off, saying they are not properly tested and can impact on other safety aspects like air bags not being deployed properly.
“They also stated there is no proof screens will help reduce transmission of the virus.
“UPHD responded with evidence of test studies on protective screens and a Liverpool minicab firm which installed screens in their vehicles.
“Sadly, this has pushed many drivers into making their own makeshift screens for protection.
“I am increasingly concerned for drivers’ safety.”
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “We fully understand the anxiety that anyone may feel when working in close proximity to members of the public during the Covid-19 crisis.
“At this stage, no-one can confirm whether such screens do restrict the spread of the virus and we have other concerns about the safety implications of such temporary modifications to vehicles.
“We have written to the Scottish Government to seek clarification on how licensed hire vehicles should operate during these challenging times.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are taking the issues with taxis very seriously and are reviewing the published guidance daily to ensure that spread of the virus is contained while balancing the needs of NHS staff to get to work, many of whom use taxis.”
The ONS said: “Among men, a number of specific occupations were found to have raised rates of death involving Covid-19, including: taxi drivers and chauffeurs (36.4 deaths per 100,000); bus and coach drivers (26.4 deaths per 100,000); chefs (35.9 deaths per 100,000); and sales and retail assistants (19.8 deaths per 100,000).”
In London, Addison Lee’s screens move follows drivers being issued with masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and disinfectant.
Chief executive Liam Griffin said: “If London is to gradually get moving again as the [UK] Government adjusts its advice, it is vital to ensure the public transport network is not overwhelmed and people have a clean and safe way to travel as they go back to work.
“The safety of our drivers and our passengers is our biggest priority.
“We know there is significant demand from drivers, passengers, businesses and the general public for more to be done to make transport cleaner and safer as we go back to work – including calls for the introduction of partition screens into private hire vehicles.
“That’s why we have taken the decision to begin rolling out the installation of safety screens between drivers and passenger seats.”