PETALING JAYA: As the country is still under phase two of the national vaccination programme, some segments of the service industry such as e-hailing and taxi drivers may need to practice extra precaution against the spread of Covid-19, as they meet with passengers on a daily basis.
Public Health Physicians president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said e-hailing and taxi drivers need to ensure that they adhere to strict standard operating procedures such as wearing face masks, hand hygiene and having good ventilation to avoid the risk of Covid-19 infection.
"The risk of transmission is of course higher in cases where the journey is longer and in a confined air-conditioned vehicle.
"If both the driver and customer agree, it is better to have the windows down for better air circulation to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission," he said.
Commenting on whether there is a need for drivers and customers to double mask, Dr Zainal said it may be uncomfortable for drivers to wear double masks for long hours, hence it is more important for them to ensure that they wear their mask properly and ensure good ventilation.
"The driver can open the windows and let fresh air in after dropping off every customer," he said.
Lecturer Muhamad Amirul Faiz Abd Ghani said he is comfortable taking taxis even during this time of the pandemic, as he feels it is much safer than having to ride in crowded public transportation such as buses and trains.
"Since there is only the driver in the car, I feel that it is still safe, as we can ensure physical distance is complied," he said.
Muhamad Amirul, however, said that he prefers that the drivers would wear a double mask as an extra precaution against any potential spread of Covid-19 during the journey.
"Other than that, the drivers should also prepare hand sanitiser in the car and best not to take in other passengers or make any stops in between destinations," said the 30-year-old.
For human resource manager Masrah Marsinda, she hopes to avoid taking taxis or e-hailing services, as she believes it is easier for Covid-19 to transmit in a confined and poorly ventilated environment.
"However, if it is unavoidable, I will ensure that the driver and I wear double masks as an extra precaution.
"I would also require the driver to sanitise the car with a disinfectant spray, as it will give me some peace of mind," said the 33-year-old.
Klang Valley Taxi Drivers Action Committee president Zailani Isa Usuluddin has also urged all taxi and e-hailing drivers to comply with the guidelines that have been explained by the government, which is to have only two people in a vehicle.
"Drivers must follow all the preventive measures that have been set by the government, as it is a very dangerous virus at the moment and all civil servants are expected to be equally patient in breaking the Covid-19 chain of infection," he said.
Zailani said there has not been any update to whether the government will allow e-hailing and taxi drivers to be prioritised in the country's vaccination programme.
He cautioned that every driver and passenger need to protect themselves from the risk of Covid-19 transmission by strictly adhering to the standard operating procedures.
The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) secretary-general on Saturday (June 12) called for e-hailing and food delivery workers to be put on the priority list to be vaccinated due to their high mobility and wide-ranging contacts.
Datuk Richard Yong We Kong said that if all on-call or traditional taxi drivers are vaccinated, they will be able to operate with more flexibility and passengers will feel at ease.