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'We Need To Rethink 50% Capacity Limit'

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

AFTER months of being out of business due to the COVID-19 restrictions, taxicab drivers say they are happy to resume operations now that international travel has resumed in the country.

Speaking to reporters outside Lynden Pindling International Airport yesterday, Bahamas Taxicab Union president Wesley Ferguson said while drivers are "elated" to return to work, they are also taking the necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, given the spike in cases now occurring across many US states.

He said: "The taxi drivers are definitely elated to be back to work today, although we are proceeding with a bit of caution because you know America, who's our main source of income, they still remain very sick.

"But, we're very happy to know that we are one of the first set of public transportation to be back in operations and taxi drivers are excited that they could finally get to some sort of normalcy and to continue to take care of their financial obligations."

Another taxi driver, who gave his name as Mr Duncombe, expressed similar sentiments to The Tribune.

With thousands being laid off due to the economic uncertainty of COVID-19, Mr Duncombe said he is just grateful to have a job.

He told The Tribune: "Plenty people are suffering, you understand what I'm saying and sometime you go in the store and I know I spent plenty money on food and with nothing coming in, then you could imagine some mothers who have five children or six children what they're going through."

Acknowledging that business might be slow for the first few months, Mr Duncombe feels confident drivers will be able to have a strong recovery.

In March, the government closed the country's borders to all incoming commercial travelers, including Bahamians, to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The move led to a shutdown of a number of hotels and businesses in the tourism sector, with many saying it will not re-open until the latter part of this year. Public transport was also shut down.

In an effort to restart the country's tourism industry, the Minnis administration began a phased re-opening of the travel industry last month and commercial international travel to resume July 1.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, during his contribution to the 2020-2021 budget debate, said taxi drivers are to ensure all passengers wear masks while cab occupancy is to be limited to enable social distancing.

Yesterday, Mr Ferguson assured that drivers had implemented the proper safety protocols and had planned to enforce them.

"The taxi union was very diligent even during the pandemic and during the shutdown. We met with all of the major stakeholders and we put proper safety measures in place and we established new protocols," he said.

"We met all of the requirements and the taxi drivers are sanitised. They all have masks and all (will be) exercising social distancing and everything that we need for the occasion, we have it and it's going well."

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