By Crisan Evans
The transportation system is one of the many sectors that have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, transport operators are trying to find ways to provide for their families and to save for a rainy day. In addition to this, many Jamaicans still depend on them to move from one place to the next. However, like workers in other sectors, they must play their part in preventing the spread of the virus.
Earlier this week, the CVM team visited Half-Way-Tree – one of the COVID-19 hot spots. They reported that even though some persons were wearing masks, there were still many without. In addition to this, CVM also reported that many persons were still on the streets trying to get transportation to return home, beyond the curfew. This report suggests that many persons are still either reckless or oblivious to the community spread of the virus in Jamaica.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Jamaica, the government has been urging taxi operators to carry no more than four passengers. In addition to this, passengers are asked to wear a mask and taxi operators are asked to travel with sanitizers. From my experience, this is, however, not the case. Some taxi drivers continue to operate as if things are like they were ten months ago, and some passengers continue to travel without masks. These passengers are also not urged by taxi operators to adhere to protocols. With taxis still packed and passengers refusing to adhere to regulations, it is hard for citizens who wish to protect themselves.
The question here is: “Why have taxi operators been ignoring regulations set by the government?”
One of the excuses from taxi operators has been that they need to provide for their families, and that this is the only way they know how to. Some have even called on the government for help so they can continue making a living. It was reported on April 12 of this year, in the Jamaica Observer that many were also promised COVID-19 relief, but it was reported by the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) that the government is yet to fulfill its promise.
No follow-up report was published on whether or not the money was issued to the JATOO at a later date. With no help from the government, the next viable solution for their survival is to continue doing what they were doing before the COVID-19 pandemic – travel with car seats full. According to some operators, it is important now, more than ever, that they “hustle” to survive the pandemic.
“COVID-19 can’t stop the hustle and now more than ever children at home will need to eat. COVID-19 is not going to stop me from making my likkle bikkle,” said taxi operator, Tony. He explained that since the outbreak, the prices on some food items have increased and as a taxi operator, he must find ways to survive the increased prices.
For taxi operators if they are to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, the government must find a solution to ensure that they are not left financially crippled.
Crisan Evans is a content creator and journalist whose passion lies in unravelling stories, reading, and writing poetry and other creatives. She completed her studies in Journalism at CARIMAC, UWI and wants to contribute to changes in society through her journalism career.
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