By Elesha George
Taxi operators in Antigua and Barbuda are taking no chances when it comes to hygiene amid the global spread of the debilitating novel coronavirus.
“Some people who never take that thing [health threats] serious on a normal basis, they take it serious now because of the coronavirus,” said Keithroy “Number One” Lake, public relations officer of St John’s Taxi Association.
As one of the front-line groups who welcome visitors to the port in the capital city, the 180-member association is doing its part to help prevent the coronavirus from entering Antigua and Barbuda.
Lake said the members are applying a combination of preventative measures like using hand sanitisers, and spraying and disinfecting their vehicles before and after every trip.
However, he said, “this is nothing strange” and that, through the years, “once there is some kind of sickness on the ship, not necessarily because of the coronavirus, they [ship operators] will come and sanitise the buses they are going to use”.
Leroy John-Baptiste, General Secretary of the St John’s Taxi Association, told OBSERVER media that the virus “is a very significant concern” for transportation providers.
He said however that the organisation had left it to the individual discretion of the taxi drivers to adopt “requisite precautionary measures”, being extra careful not to offend anyone in the process.
“It’s a little tricky situation with the protective gears,” he remarked, explaining that while they don’t want to offend visitors, they also have to protect themselves.
“If they are of the opinion that they’re a little bit scared or their health may be compromised and they so wish to wear the protective gear, that is within their realms, but we have not, as an organisation, made a specific determination that you should or you should not [wear masks] because it is a little thin line between offending and your health concerns,” Baptiste added.
Gregory Athill, General Secretary of the Antigua National Taxi Association – an amalgamation of taxi operators – said members are asked to equip their vehicles with bacteria-killing spray.
To prevent any exposure to any type of virus, Athill said drivers are additionally encouraged to wind down their windows instead of using air-conditioning.
“A lot of taxi drivers will get cold and flu just from driving guests that are in their vehicle in air-condition,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, Ian Joseph, President of the United Taxi Association which is responsible for airport transportation, said he is most concerned about the absence of official information from local health officials concerning the coronavirus.
“I think with all what they are doing, they are dropping the ball,” he said, adding that “there has not been one literature that the people in authority would have sent to us”.
“I see people travelling, they’re coming off the planes with mask so these are people who are taking it very serious, so we need some literature…. We are the first persons that these persons will be locked away in air-conditioning with for 30 minutes to a hotel; how do I identify if somebody is sick or somebody’s just with a natural cough,” he questioned.