Cabbies Cuffed And Slapped With Fine For Breaking Covid-19 Restrictions

Taxi operators say the police have been overly aggressive in enforcing new restrictions imposed on them by the government in the wake of the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are persons who are saying they have been dragged from their vehicle because they have not carried one less passenger in their vehicles," said Egeton Newman, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services, which represents more than 1,000 taxi and bus operators.

"We advised them to ensure they carry one less, even though the road license says otherwise," he continued. "We have had one or two hiccups... the government officials and transport inspectors will do anything to get at us." 

Exercising his powers under the Disaster Risk Management Act, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced earlier this week that the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and Montego Bay Metro will be required to only carry passengers seated, while taxis are required to carry one less passenger than they are licensed to do. 

Newman... the government officials and transport inspectors will do anything to get at us.

However, cabbies, while claiming that they are making every effort to comply with the measures, have indicated that they are being aggressively policed by the authorities, especially in the Corporate Area,.

"A lot of them are being handcuffed and dragged out of their vehicles, I heard that one was handcuffed and dragged to court same time and given a $45,000 fine, and a bawl him start bawl same time," one 'taximan' told the media.

All the restrictions, the prime minister said, would initially be for seven days, effective last Wednesday, as the government monitors the spread of COVID-19. 

Newman has some pressing concerns about the long term feasibility of what he indicates is a stringent measure against taxi operators.

"While we are losing 25 percent of our daily income, we have to be spending every day on materials to sanitize our units and fewer passengers are traveling," Newman said. 

"We must, at this time, abide by the new regulations of the government in the interest of the country's public safety. Nevertheless we take note that we are the only sector that the government has not provided a stimulus package for us. We are urged to work, but at our own detriment," he said.

But given the looming public health crisis, Newman called on his operators to show unity and forbearance at this most difficult time.

"We urge all operators to provide the best travel experience to the commuting public from frontline workers to social commuters but most of all practice good social graces. We are all in this together," Newman said. 

Under the new measures, all bars have been closed and that there will be restrictions on the opening of nightclubs and other areas of entertainment.

Markets, supermarkets, corner shops, gas stations and pharmacies are being treated as essential, and will remain open. However, there should be no gathering, of more than 20 persons. Markets will be open, from 6 am to 2 pm (local time) and vendors are asked to pay close attention to the requirements of social-distancing.

Restaurants and cookshops can remain open but should maintain the 20-person restriction.

Prime Minister Holness said the measures would be reviewed after five days, so as to make a determination, whether there is need for escalation.


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