Taxi drivers

Taxi drivers want rule change on unvaxxed passengers

Taxi drivers are unhappy at being forced to transport unvaccinated passengers and have called on the government to urgently review the rules.

The New Zealand Taxi Federation wrote to the Minister for Covid-19 Response, the Minister of Health and the Minister for Transport earlier this month, explaining that its members did not feel safe under the current parameters.

“The Ministry of Health has not understood our concerns. The Ministry of Health has also not engaged with the small passenger service industry. As a result, they have miscategorized the service we provide classifying it as ‘life-preserving’,” said Federation executive director Warren Quirke.

“Being in a taxi is very conducive to becoming a super spreader. You have a lot of people coming and going in a confined space and social distancing is really difficult.”

In all settings of the traffic light system taxi services are prohibited from asking passengers for a vaccine pass. face coverings are required in red and orange settings.

If the government did not change the parameters, the small passenger services sector would have to be removed from the “transportation” part of the traffic light system, Quirke said.

“This would allow our member companies to develop their own policies regarding vaccination requirements in accordance with their own risk assessments, health and safety compliance and human rights requirements.

“It would also bring us in line with the many other responsible businesses that have had the ability to implement their own policy to protect their staff and customers.”

Ten days after sending that letter, Quirke had still not received a response from the government.

The Ministry of Transport has its own policy which prohibits unvaccinated persons from entering its premises.

“It seems kind of ironic that they have the ability to put this policy in place and we don’t,” Quirke said.

Drivers were happy to pick up passengers who had a legitimate exemption, but were unwilling to be near those who had made a personal choice not to be vaccinated, he added.

“We are obligated to provide service to those who consciously refuse to protect themselves and others, willfully threatening the safety and well-being of our communities.”

The Minister for Covid-19 Response has been approached for comment.