In the communication to licensing authorities, NPHTA and PHTM point out that the virus will pose a threat to health for some time after the relaxation of social distancing, and that the screens provide an element of protection for both passengers and drivers.
The email states:
‘…The installation of a protection screen between the front and back compartment of the vehicle, of similar standards to that seen in a purpose built hackney carriage combined with the wearing of PPE facemasks, and observing the extensive cleaning protocols, offers the best possible form of protection. This approach will also boost the public’s confidence in making use of those services again.
‘… we are mounting a campaign staunchly in favour of the installation of as many protection screens into licensed saloon PHVs and taxis, and licensed minibuses, as is possible to help lower the transmission of the virus, to protect passengers and drivers alike – provided of course that the screens are fit for purpose.
‘We preface this campaign by acknowledging that the decision of each licensed driver to carry on working during the lockdown is entirely their choice. However, that choice has been taken out of a lot of their hands: they must continue to work in order to feed their family, and not lose their home from non-payment of rent, mortgage and all the other overheads facing an industry whose members are mainly self-employed. Since the government support schemes have fallen very short of being applicable to the majority of trade members, as regulators you shoulder a burden of responsibility to protect and support those you regulate.
‘… hundreds of drivers have been specially trained and have adjusted the type of work they undertake in order to provide backup transport for the NHS and other healthcare workers, even patients, thereby alleviating pressure from ambulance drivers and paramedics who can then turn their focus to the front line more efficiently…. ‘
The email includes a number of questions and answers about protective screens, emphaisises that there is no Government guidance on the subject and that licensing authorities must make their own decisions on protective screening, and concludes by asking licensing authorities to notify NPHTA of any further reservations so that they can answer the concerns.