Face coverings 'mandatory' in Wolverhampton Council-licensed cabs
Passengers travelling in taxis licensed by a council must wear face coverings or drivers will refuse to pick them up, chiefs have said.
Chiefs at Wolverhampton Council made the move to make coverings mandatory after concerns were raised by drivers who felt "uneasy" and unsafe.
It means drivers – who have been already advised to wear masks – will be able to refuse anyone not wearing a mask under the rules which come into force immediately.
Councillor Alan Bolshaw, chairman of Wolverhampton Council’s licensing committee, said: "We have listened to the calls from the taxi trade, both hackney carriages and private hire, for greater safety measures to protect them and their passengers during this time.
"We have decided to act to mandate the wearing of face coverings for all passengers and have advised drivers that they should also wear a covering on all journeys where they have passengers.
"We have gone over and above the Government guidance which is only advisory regarding passengers wearing masks.
"We are saying that it is compulsory to wear a mask as a passenger in a Wolverhampton taxi, you must wear one and if you don’t then drivers will be quite within their rights not to allow you into their vehicle."
The move follows a backlash against chiefs over calls for protective screens – set up by drivers in cabs without official permission – to be removed over safety concerns.
Taxi drivers said their lives were being put at risk after being asked to remove them, but chiefs argued they had the "best interests" of drivers at heart due to fears over spreading the virus.
The mask policy comes into force immediately, but anyone who has a medical condition which prevents mask-wearing will still be allowed.
Anyone with these medical reasons will be expected to sit in the rear of the vehicle and as far from the driver as possible.
Councillor Bolshaw added: "Our taxi drivers are key workers providing vital transport links for people and they have a right to feel safe as they go about their important work.
"Many of them have told us they have felt uneasy transporting passengers who do not always cover their faces in the enclosed environment of a taxi. Evidence suggests that taxi drivers are at a higher risk of infection than other groups.
"It is already mandatory to wear a mask on a bus or train and I think most passengers will accept that wearing a mask is the least they can do to keep each other safe during this pandemic and reduce the risk of spreading the virus."
Windows should – where practicable – be open for the entire journey to provide adequate ventilation, chiefs have said.
Drivers may remove their face coverings temporarily if they are asked to prove their identity to a passenger.
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