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By Carlena Knight

Some measure of relief could be in the cards for local taxi drivers who are trying to ease the squeeze which the impact of Covid-19 has placed on the now dormant tourism industry.

This is according to the Secretary of the National Taxi Association, Gregory Athill, who said that plans are in the pipeline to approach major supermarkets and other private entities to request assistance for its members.

“I have gotten the go ahead from the executive to make representation to major businesses within Antigua like to 1st Choice and the other major supermarkets and to other business places who our drivers have patronized, so that they could give us some sort of assistance as the drivers are now basically suffering. We just formulated letters and they will be sent out by today [Monday] and tomorrow [Tuesday] but verbally on the phone we have been speaking to persons in the government to see also what assistance we can get,” Athill said.

“Most people are saying give us some time. 1st Choice sent me an email just yesterday [Sunday] but I am in contact with them to see what sort of package we can put together for our drivers and I am still awaiting confirmation for places such as Epicurean as to how they can assist us.”

He is also of the opinion that talks between the various taxi associations, hotels and private tour guides can be held in order to discuss the way forward.

According to Athill, over the years, hotels and private tour operators have caused taxi drivers to exist from ‘hand to mouth’ as they are offering tours around the island.

He revealed that discussions have occurred over the years with no result but with the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic, now is the best time to do so.

Meanwhile, another taxi association member is calling on the government to play a bigger role in assisting the tourism ambassadors.

Hudson Joseph, the association’s officer education officer, and the former assistant manager of the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board, said that to date, the government has distributed masks to taxi drivers and implemented measures for hotel workers, but the taxi drivers have not received any buffer. He believes now is the time for concessions to be implemented.

“I think we have to look seriously at some kind of concession which have been promised to drivers over the years by all administrations. They utilize more monies for wear and tear, they burn more gas. They pay extra money to license their vehicles and I think it is really the time for them to look at concessions, in terms of tyres, batteries; these things will be a great assistance.

“I think that something could have been used to assist drivers and other people who have been hit at this time. Some of the drivers have a spouse who work in the tourism industry as well and with the two of them being home you can only imagine how that is,” Joseph said.

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