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Long queues and masks mark the new normal as workers return to work

Under level 4 restrictions taxis are permitted to operate between 5am and 7pm, but their loading capacity was still limited to just 10 passengers.

Taxi commuters at Baragwanath Taxi Rank on 4 May 2020. Picture: Kgomotso Modise/EWN.

DURBAN/JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - With more people returning to work and some businesses reopening on Monday, there were increased traffic volumes at transport hubs such as taxi ranks.

But local taxi associations said profitability remained a challenge for them because they were still unable to bring back hundreds of employees.

The chairperson of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the KZN south coast Joe Mkhize said they still had to buy more hygiene material to protect commuters because government had not fulfilled its promise to support the industry.

Mkhize said another major challenge they were facing was not being able to bring back about 510 taxi drivers and assistants because of current restrictions.

“We have about 320 taxis but at the moment we are using 110… drivers have got their fears about how they’re going to feed their families with the limited number of passengers permitted,” Mkhize said.

Meanwhile, some businesses were ready to open their doors on Monday morning.

Rokaya Ally from Ally’s Panelbeaters said with permission to become fully operational, she was able to pay most of her employees again.

“I’m also glad that my employees are no longer burdened with the worry of where their next meal will come from and they now will be able to provide for their families,” she said.

Despite the slight easing of lockdown conditions, local authorities said law enforcement operations would remain intensified and they would be monitoring adherence to the rules by all businesses and residents.

BARAGWANATH TAXI RANK

Meanwhile, it was a busy start at the Baragwanath taxi rank with the usual scenes of long queues and the constant hum of taxis.

Under level 4 restrictions, taxis are permitted to operate between 5 am and 7 pm, but their loading capacity was still limited to just 10 passengers.

The queues at the taxi rank were a testament to the gradual reopening of the economy, but they did not reflect the rules to curb the spread of coronavirus.

One commuter said he was scared about his drive to work.

“There’s no social distancing. I don’t know whether people are ignorant or just don’t care about being infected,” he said.

WATCH: SA lockdown level 4: exercise and food delivery allowed, no alcohol and cigarettes

BELLVILLE TAXI RANK

At the same time, the Bellville Taxi Rank in Cape Town was once again a hive of activity.

But during lockdown, things were being done differently. Taxi drivers and commuters were wearing cloth masks.

While it could be tricky sticking to the new rules, many drivers, operators, and commuters appeared to be doing their best.

One taxi driver hoped that business would pick up this week.

“From today, I think it would be better, we only had two loads per day,” he said.

Adjacent to the taxi rank is the bus terminus. A few Golden Arrow buses were parked and loading passengers who were keeping their distance from each other.

Buses will run from 5 am until 8 pm when the curfew comes into effect.

Only a limited number of passengers would be allowed on buses, and strict safety measures would also be put in place including the regular sanitising of vehicles.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.