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Taxis in line at O'Connell street, Dublin city centre. (File photo)

Complainant alleged taxi driver 'spent the entire trip claiming coronavirus doesn’t exist'

The NTA said it has no powers to act if a driver is not wearing a mask.

A TAXI DRIVER refused to wear a face mask and “spent the entire taxi trip claiming that the coronavirus doesn’t exist”.

That is according to one taxi customer who lodged a formal complaint to the National Transport Authority (NTA) over the driver’s refusal to wear a face mask in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In another complaint concerning a driver not wearing a face-mask, a customer stated that: “The driver was very opinionated about Covid-19, he seemed to believe that it was blown out of all proportion”.

The passenger stated: “I was wearing a face-mask as per Government guidelines. He did not seem to think that there was any evidence of their use even though there is.”

Another passenger complained to the NTA in June that they had: “booked a taxi for the first time in three months”.

The passenger stated: “I was so disappointed to enter the car and see the driver not wearing a mask nor was there a screen between the front and back seat.

The passenger ended: “I mean if you are encouraged to wear a mask on a bus or the Luas, why wouldn’t a taxi driver automatically wear a mask or make the effort to install a screen in their car.”

However, the NTA is powerless to act on the face mask complaints as it is not an offence currently for taxi-drivers not to wear a face mask during taxi journeys.

In relation to the driver who refused to wear a face-mask and spent the journey claiming the coronavirus didn’t exist, the outcome of the complaint, according to the NTA, was that it was “not proceeded with – no evidence of any offence’.

The NTA has provided guidance to drivers that they should wear face masks where social distancing cannot be maintained.

However, the government – for now – has stopped short in making the wearing of masks mandatory in spite of calls from the taxi industry to do so.

It is understood that the Department of Health, in co-operation with the Department of Transport is currently drafting regulations concerning the mandatory wearing of masks in taxis for enactment shortly.

Chief executive of taxi company, Lynk Ireland, Noel Ebbs said today that it is his understanding that face coverings for taxi drivers and passengers are to be made mandatory.

He stated: “I am very much in favour of drivers wearing masks because a car is such a confined space and particularly if they have no Covid separation screens in their car.

If they have a separation screen in their car, it should down to the discretion of the car and the customer.

Mr Ebbs stated that he would be in favour that penalties be imposed on drivers and passengers who don’t wear masks under the new regulations.

He stated: “The last thing we want is s second lockdown. We have urged our own drivers ‘please, wear a mask’. That is much as we can do now until the regulations come in.”

Mr Ebbs stated that business “is still low enough and varying between 40% and 50% of where it was”.

He stated that the slightest negative comment from someone in authority concerning Covid-19 or a change in the daily Covid cases figures has a direct impact on business the following day.

He stated: “It is really, really sensitive. I have never seen the industry so sensitive to outside influence in all my years in the industry. The drivers don’t know if they are coming or going.”

Figures provided by the NTA show that, with taxi journeys down on last year, complaints concerning taxis decreased by 55% to 272 for the first six months of this year.

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