Home Taxi transport Concerns raised about the obligation to share public transport with unvaccinated people

Concerns raised about the obligation to share public transport with unvaccinated people

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People with no choice but to use public transport say they are afraid to board and are held hostage by those who have chosen not to be vaccinated.

Image file.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

As part of the government’s Covid-19 protection, also known as the traffic light system, public transport, including buses, trains, and taxis, is prohibited from asking customers for a pass for vaccines, as they are considered “essential or life-saving services”.

Kaye * has epilepsy and cannot legally drive. She uses public transport, but a fever can cause a seizure.

She is afraid to share a confined space with someone who has chosen not to be vaccinated.

“I’m not going to lie. I was terrified because the reality is that it has to show up here at some point and I think as soon as we start hearing about cases in Wellington I won’t be taking any local buses anymore and taxis would end up being an absolute emergency, ”Kaye said.

She was angry that she had been put in this position.

“We’ve done the right thing, we’ve got our shots and we need the transport to get to where we’re going, or we’re stuck but we can’t take the risk.

“A lot of us have disabilities and we’re at high risk… like, with epilepsy, a fever can trigger pretty bad seizures, so we don’t want to get sick.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government has made sure to balance the need to protect people from the virus, while ensuring that everyone can access basic necessities like food, drugs and transport.

Kaye said that in the government’s efforts to be inclusive, it has excluded large numbers of people.

“There are thousands and thousands of New Zealanders who cannot drive for medical reasons… I wish the folks who set the rules would think about it. Everything is set up on the basis and the assumption that everything the world drives, and the people who make the rules don’t even think about that, they don’t think about the consequences of their decisions.

“I know, I’m not the only one feeling this and I’m not the only one who downplays their use of public transport.”

Bus and Coach Association chief executive Ben McFadgen said transmission risks could be better managed in a bus than in a taxi, but noted that all public transport operators have carried out a risk assessment and decided that drivers should be vaccinated.

“With tourist buses, it is up to the operator to decide whether they choose to take unvaccinated passengers. Some do separate vaccines only and mixed. Again, with public transport, they have done assessments of the risks to their drivers and require vaccinations, ”McFadgen said.

“We recommended to the NZTA and the MOT [Ministry of Transport] that it would be wise for the government to make public transport compulsory because of its essential nature. A number of operators run both school and public transport services, so it would have made sense to ensure consistency and good risk management, but the Cabinet did not see it that way. “

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

* Name changed to protect privacy


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