Government ‘ignored expert advice on taxi capacity’

Experts advised the government in early July that taxis should not be allowed to fill up beyond 70% - advice that was seemingly ignored. This was revealed by the ministry of health on Thursday in two letters from the ministerial advisory committee (MAC).
Experts advised the government in early July that taxis should not be allowed to fill up beyond 70% - advice that was seemingly ignored. This was revealed by the ministry of health on Thursday in two letters from the ministerial advisory committee (MAC).
Image: Esa Alexander

The government seemingly ignored advice from a panel of experts when it allowed taxis to fill up to maximum capacity.

The experts, in two letters written six days apart in early July, recommend that taxis should not be allowed to fill up beyond 70%.

In fact, the experts stated that in areas where Covid-19 cases were surging, only a 50% occupancy should be allowed.

Instead, taxis were allowed to operate at 100% capacity.

This is revealed in two letters from the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on Covid-19.

The health ministry on Thursday released 45 of the MAC advisories to the public, with minister Zweli Mkhize saying that “less than 5% of them were not implemented in their entirety”.

One of those is the controversial decision to allow taxis to operate at full capacity for trips under 200km.

Taxis were originally allowed to operate at 50% capacity under lockdown laws, but this was increased to 70% as the government seemingly buckled under pressure from the taxi industry.

Later, as lockdown restrictions were eased further, taxis were allowed to operate at full capacity.

The committee, in a letter dated July 3, makes it clear that the risks with a 100% capacity were high — to the point that it advises that it should not be permitted.

“Taxi occupancy should not be increased above the current 70% level,” it recommended.

“Consideration should be given to reducing occupancy to 50% in areas where the numbers of active Covid-19 cases are high and rising.”

The committee explained that the 100% capacity proposal “presents a high risk of accelerating coronavirus transmission”.

In a second letter, six days later on July 9, the committee again says the 100% capacity idea is not a good one.

This time, however, it directly acknowledges that there are other non-health factors at play.

“The MAC on Covid-19 does not advise going above 70% occupancy, however [it] acknowledges that this decision requires consideration of many factors besides health,” the letter reads.  — TimesLIVE


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