KINGSTON, Jamaica–October 23rd, 2020–Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, says he intends to work with Transport and Mining Minister, Robert Montague, to provide greater clarity to taxi operators about their role in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to ensure greater compliance with the health and safety protocols.
He was responding to concerns raised by President of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO), Louis Barton, at the weekly virtual COVID Conversations press conference on Thursday (October 22).
Mr. Barton, who was a guest at the press briefing, said that while some operators are complying with the protocols, including sanitizing their vehicles and wearing masks, many remain delinquent.
“The problem is how we get our members to comply. We, as an association, can only appeal to our members to do the right thing, but some of our members will follow us, some won’t, but there are no negative rewards for not doing what is necessary,” he noted.
Mr. Barton said the association is seeking some guidelines as to the way forward in addressing the delinquency of the taxi operators.
He pointed out that there are 35,000 licensed taxi operators, who each transport about 80 passengers daily, and 35 different transport associations.
Dr. Tufton said that the taxi drivers are “an important part of economic activity and an important interface with the general populace”.
“They are also part of the front line of the COVID response, so we will work with you and work with our Minister of Transport to try and find some solutions to some of those concerns,” he said.
“We need that kind of collaboration; there are no ifs, ands or buts about it,” the Minister stressed.
As it relates to the disregard of the health protocols by taxi operators, Minister Tufton indicated that the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office are working on more specific fines for breaches.
Jamaica has a region open to tourists that it calls its “Resilient Corridor.” This includes most of its coast including popular vacation destinations like Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios, but not its capital, Kingston, or the surrounding inland areas. If tourists wish to go beyond the Resilient Corridor, they are first asked to quarantine for 14 days on the island.
Taxis have become an issue in a number of countries, since taxi drivers cannot distance themselves two meters from passengers. Generally with a single passenger, the passenger sits in a rear seat at a diagonal from the driver. In many jurisdictions, taxi drivers have installed clear plexiglass or plastic screens with a small hole through which to pass money.