‘No evidence’ plastic screens make taxis safer, says Cardiff council

Screens optional in city despite male taxi drivers being more likely to die with coronavirus than male nurses

CARDIFF taxi drivers are not required to install protective screens because there is “no evidence” this reduces coronavirus transmission, according to council documents.

Debate over screens has resurfaced after the Welsh Government announced taxi drivers can now claim free PPE packs worth £73.50, including cleaning supplies for six months.

Unite Union regional officer Alan McCarthy says while this is a positive step, local authorities’ approaches to protective screens need to change.

“It’s clear from [government] guidance that a physical barrier coupled with both parties wearing face coverings is far more effective than just face coverings alone.

“Bus drivers have that screen, that booth, and even then, the closest passenger is going to be six to eight feet away. Taxi drivers don’t have that luxury.”

Recent data shows that taxi drivers are among workers most at risk of dying with coronavirus:

During protests last year, Cardiff taxi driver Tariq Majid said: “My wife is an MS sufferer so I have to be very careful with keeping my social distance and taking all the precautions that I should do.”

“We’ve asked the council to come forward and give us grants for screens to be fitted, which is not just for our safety, it’s also for the safety of the passengers.”

“There is no evidence available that demonstrates that partitions in taxis or private hire vehicles reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 infection…”

Cardiff Council, Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licence Holders Covid-19 Guidance and Policy, 15 July 2020

Cardiff Council has argued that hard plastic screens could injure passengers in the event of a crash or interfere with airbags being deployed.

However, Mr McCarthy insists these risks have been investigated and eliminated. Soft inflatable screens were approved for use by Transport for London in September 2020.

Burnley Council announced last week that it would be funding the installation of screens in all private hire vehicles licenced by it. Mr McCarthy hopes other councils will soon follow suit.

A spokesperson for Cardiff council said: “The council is working with the taxi and private hire trade to ensure that screens are safe and do not compromise the complex safety systems found in modern vehicles.

“A number of installations have been brought to our attention and the licensing department is working with these companies to help ensure driver and passenger safety.”