It is not just taxis that are now allowed to fill up with passengers — scholar transport, buses, e-hailing cabs, meter taxis, shuttle services and chauffeur-driven vehicles can now also operate at 100% of capacity.
This only applies to trips not regarded as “long-distance”, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Thursday. He defined this as any trip of 200km or more.
Taxis on long-distance journeys can still only operate at 70% of capacity.
The easing of the regulations comes amid a backlash by the taxi industry over the crippling financial impact of the lockdown regulations.
Mbalula stressed that the relaxing the lockdown rules did not necessarily make things better for taxi drivers.
“Taxis may be operating at 100% capacity, but not all of them are getting full,” he said, adding that with level 3 still in place, not everyone was travelling.
The government was aware of the dangers that came with fully loading taxis, he said.
“We have no doubt that public transport could pose a real threat to the efforts towards containment of the rapid spread of the pandemic. It is for that very reason that having duly and widely consulted, we have put in place additional and more stringent measures, as we incrementally resume public transport operations across various modes,” he said.
“In playing our part towards halting the rapid spread of the pandemic, it is imperative that we strengthen compliance with health protocols and tighten the hand of law enforcement.”
Permits are still required for people travelling across the provinces.
While sanitising of taxis and mask wearing for all passengers were already required measures, the transport ministry said all taxis also needed to be fitted with window stoppers to ensure adequate ventilation.
Mbalula expressed sympathy for taxi passengers who may be affected by the cold weather but stressed that this was necessary.
“The expenses for all this will come from government,” he said.
The government was already playing its part in providing and distributing sanitisers and masks for taxi drivers, he said. To put an end to procurement issues, he said provinces had been given the funds to supply masks and sanitisers.
Despite operating at 100%, the transport ministry added: “All public transport operators must put measures in place to adhere to physical distancing to curb the spread of the virus.”