Linus Phillip

common ground: Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, left, greets Linus Phillip, president of the Route Two Maxi-Taxi Association, before their meeting yesterday at the City Gate hub in Port of Spain.

—Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

“It’s an unfair statement. The majority of drivers are wearing masks. Some drivers insist if you don’t have a mask, you can’t enter the bus.”

So said Presi­dent of the Route 2 Maxi-Taxi Association Linus Phillip after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said he had noticed taxi and maxi-taxi drivers were not wearing face masks and were posing a danger to themselves by encouraging the spread of Covid-19 .

“Nobody gave the drivers masks, and, only Diamond Motors gave them sanitiser to clean the buses,” Phillip said.

Phillip said there are about 1,800 drivers plying the Arima to Port of Spain route, adding that about 50,000 people from a population of about 300,000 pass through the City Gate, South Quay hub daily.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Phillip said: “I am willing to meet with the minister (Deyalsingh). Nobody has contacted us yet. It’s an unfair statement. I would say only one or two drivers are not wearing mask. The majority of them care about their health, their families, and passengers. In everything, you will have people who will not comply. Even some people around the city are not wearing masks.

“Over $1 million was spent on masks. We are frontline workers. Yet nobody gave us a mask. They are saying, ‘We are not wearing masks’. Drivers have had to buy their masks, or get them homemade. Every Tom, Dick and Harry got a mask but no masks for drivers.”

Moving to sanitation, Phillip added: “We are grateful for the $2,000 fuel grant. But nobody gave us any sanitiser for our buses, or cleaned the compound. It was only Diamond Motors that gave us 400 kg of sanitisers to clean the vehicles. It’s up to us to spend our money for hand sanitisers, wipes and cleaning products to clean the buses. I have written to the Works Minister (Rohan Sinanan) about sanitation and increasing capacity. We have our stress. We have to pay our bills. We have to live like everybody else. It’s unfair to us.”

Giving a breakdown of the capacity of maxi taxis, Phillip said: “We are bent on flattening the curve. We can carry one passenger per seat. We will still maintain the social distancing. The big buses which carry about 25 people, which were carrying about 13 commuters should be allowed to carry about 16 now. Twenty-two seater buses, which had about 12, can carry about 14 now.

“ Smaller buses, which can carry 12, and were carrying six passengers, can now carry seven. 15 seater buses, which were carrying seven during lockdown, can now carry about eight.”

Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said yesterday Phillip can contact the Corporation. “We will be willing to give drivers some N85 masks,” he said.

And, Sinanan said the PTSC compound has to be sanitised. “I have been speaking to the PS (Permanent Secretary) and something has to be put in place. They have written to us about the increased capacity. But the directive can only come from the Health Ministry. A lot of personal responsibility goes with Covid-19. Citizens are expected to do their part,” he said.

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