Thu | Dec 3, 2020

JATOO head wants transport operators who disobey COVID protocols sanctioned

Published:Friday | October 23, 2020 | 10:10 AM
President of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators, Louis Barton, addressing a virtual press conference organised by the Ministry of Health and Wellness on October 22, 2020.

Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter

President of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO), Louis Barton, would like to see taxi operators who continue to flout COVID-19 protocols penalised, given that they come in contact with as many as two million commuters on a daily basis. 

Barton said that while some taxi operators have been trying to protect themselves and their passengers by wearing masks, and sanitising their vehicles, this has not been the case for all. 

“There are many of us who are not obeying the rules. We are not carrying out the recommendations by the Transport Authority or by the Ministry of Health,” he admitted yesterday during a virtual press conference organised by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. 

“We as an association can only appeal to our members to do the right thing. Some of our members will follow us, some will just dismiss us,” he said. 

“There is no negative reward for not doing what is necessary. So, we are in limbo right now, we don’t know what is the next step,” added the JATOO president. 

There are some 40,000 registered taxi operators islandwide and each may come in contact with as many as 80 passengers each day.

JATOO represents those who operate hackney carriages, particularly those in Kingston, St Andrew, and St Catherine, although members travel islandwide. 

“We don’t know how many transport operators have contracted this disease, we don’t know how many have passed it on,” Barton said.  

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said transport operators are crucial in the fight to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to the 40,000 registered operators across the island, there is an additional 20,000 to 30,000 who are unregistered. 

“The analysis of data from our contact tracing efforts have revealed that persons travelling in the same vehicle are 3.5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 and become ill than household members,” he said.  

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