By Orville Williams
Despite strict protocols in place for transporting arriving passengers from the VC Bird International Airport, the head of the taxi service based there says the health safety system is being threatened by continuous breaches.
As part of the Covid-19 management system, all arriving passengers at the airport have been made to exclusively utilize the taxi service, as opposed to having a relative or friend pick them up. This is meant to reduce the likelihood of infectious contact and also, to ensure all incoming travellers are properly accounted for, in the event a positive Covid case is identified.
Speaking on Observer AM yesterday, Ian Joseph, President of the United Taxi Company based at the airport, explained the role the body has been playing for the past year in regard to the latter.
“From the time we started operating in the pandemic, we would have recorded every passenger that we transport and to where we transport them; that information we’ve held in our offices until if there’s an issue with an incoming passenger.
“[If there’s an issue] the nurses would contact us so we could give them the information of where we took that person and the driver who would have transported that person. So then, if needs be, that would assist them greatly in their contact tracing.”
There has been some criticism from members of the public toward what they deem an unnecessary expense, but both the government and the health authorities maintain it is an effective means of keeping things under control.
According to Joseph, however, things have not been entirely under control in recent times, due to persistent breaches by drivers not attached to the airport but who otherwise provide legitimate transportation services.
“The local Antiguan family is still not allowed to pick up their relatives [from the airport], but on the other end, there are people still operating without following the protocols and we see it every day.
“[Over] the last couple of weeks, there were two occasions where we could not provide [the contact tracing] information, because what is in the public that only taxis should transport people from the airport is really not happening.
“So, there were a few people that they were looking for and we could not provide that information because they were not transported by us.”
The United President also claimed that the breaches are being facilitated somewhat by ‘those in charge’, saying, “The people who make these regulations and rules are the same people who come back and say ‘allow John and allow Jack to do their thing at the airport’.”
He said complaints have been made to the Ministry of Health, but there has been no intervention up to this point.
Observer has reached out to the Health Ministry for comment on these claims.
Meanwhile, Joseph welcomed the increase in visitor arrivals over the past weeks, which he says has given the 70-80 members who are currently operating under his leadership a much-needed reprieve from the trials of the past year.
During the height of the pandemic, the border closures and lockdowns across the world meant the United Taxi Company was seeing very little business.
Now, due to the influx of travellers, Joseph added that they’ve had to obtain personnel support from the St John’s Taxi Association, which is still waiting for the cruise tourism sector to rebound in full force.