Taxi operators in Botshabelo are struggling with passengers who disobey Covid-19 prevention rules.

Passengers refusing to wear masks reportedly hurl abuse at queue marshals at both local and long taxi ranks in the Free State town. Some also refuse to sanitise their hands before getting into the taxi, despite national regulations.

The Botshabelo Amalgamated Taxi Association (BATA) has called on passengers to wear face masks and sanitise their hands before they enter their minibuses.

“Passengers wear their mask when they enter a taxi, but once seated in the taxi they remove the mask,” said Willy Chity, the association’s communications manager. “Queue marshals are always shouted at when advising passengers to keep on wearing their mask.”

All taxis in Botshabelo bear an official notice to the public that noncompliant passengers will not be allowed on board. Chity said he has also criticised taxi drivers taxi drivers for not wearing masks.

“We have received numerous complaints from passengers about our drivers who do not wear their masks all the time,” he said.

BATA conducts inspections on all routes around Botshabelo in order to enforce pandemic regulations like social distancing and mask-wearing.

Passengers ignore the pandemic

A passenger who uses taxis daily said people seem oblivious to the pandemic.

“Today you would swear coronavirus does not exist anymore,” said Nthabiseng Lebotho. “People do not adhere to social distancing and constant sanitisation. Because we do not know who is infected, we have to act responsible.”

Taxi driver Tebello Ditabe said passengers are aware of the pandemic but just choose to deliberately avoid taking precautions.

Thaba Nchu-based taxi assistant Thabang Motheoane oversees the Motlatla, Mokoena and Mapetsana routes. He said passengers who do not want to wear their face masks often have a bottle of cool-drink or bring food as an excuse not to wear a mask.

According to statistics released by government the Free State has experienced the fourth highest rate of Covid-19 infections in South Africa. By 24 November, 58,812 people had contracted the virus, a statistic which still excludes those who are positive and have not been tested.

Covid-19 Regulations Taxi Industry

The fatality rate in the province is currently at 3.1% and 1, 846 people have died. In the last twenty four hours, 16 new cases have been reported. In June, five schools in the province were thought to have been the source of a spike in cases when a number of teachers and pupils contracted the virus.

Botshabelo alone has recorded 3003 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while the neighbouring town of Thaba Nchu was at 2 484 cases, according to provincial statistics as of 22 November. Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State, recorded 21 065 confirmed cases.

Mourning the victims

As new infections continue, government has urged South Africans to be vigilant about the deadly virus. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will observe a week of national mourning from November 25 until November 29 for those who have died because of Covid-19.

The period of mourning also remembers the victims of  gender-based violence. Flags will fly at half-mast during the five days and citizens are asked to wear black to show solidarity.

“It will be appropriate that during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children — which is the second pandemic we are confronting — we demonstrate our remembrance of all those who have departed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and gender-based violence,” he said.

By late November, South Africa had registered 772,252 cases of Covid-19 and 21,083 people had died.—Health-e News