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On Monday 12th July Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the scrapping on 19th July of almost all COVID-19 restrictions as legal obligations covering social distancing, limits on gatherings and use of face masks are to end. This is a significant milestone for the UK.

And whilst we know the vaccine roll-out across the UK has been a huge success with two thirds of the adult population now double-jabbed and over 85% of the adult population having received at least one dose, we also know this is a very worrying time for many who are concerned about the risk that undoubtedly remains. Indeed, while the level of vaccination may have provided some of the reasoning behind the decision of the UK Government to remove restrictions, the Prime Minister on 5th July stated that, whilst restrictions were to be lifted, he expected the population “to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus”.

The good news for the taxi and private-hire trade is that all hospitality and leisure businesses can now re-open fully. This means millions of people looking to travel using taxis and minicabs – a massive boon to an industry which has really suffered during the pandemic. However, Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has admitted cases could rise to “100,000 cases a day” after July 19th and that the decision to relax the rules puts us in “unchartered territory”. To ensure legal restrictions do not come back, and infections are minimised to reduce pressure on the NHS, it is absolutely vital that key piece of societal infrastructure and institutions remain as safe as possible. This will also enable businesses to flourish in a new post-lockdown world.

After all, it is these aspects of society which are most used and relied upon by people – hospitals, schools, workplaces, public transport, taxis and minicabs.

It is well known hospitals, schools and some workplaces have embedded infection control procedures in place to keep areas clean, sanitised and to prevent infection. These will not change after July 19th. But what about taxis and minicabs?

Image of new london electric taxi parked by sign asking passengers to put a mask on

What about taxis/minicabs?

There is no specific legal requirement for taxis or minicabs to be sanitised after each use even though this can help to reduce the risk of infection spreading amongst passengers. There was only a legal requirement for passengers to wear a face mask unless legally exempt and this has now been removed. Considering a straw man approximation that taxis/minicabs transport on average 10 passengers on an 8-hour shift, and there are over 300,000 licensed vehicles in England alone, that’s potentially 3 million people a day travelling in situations where exposure to infection could be a risk.

What about public transport?

This has been left to each transport operator to decide. There has never been any centralised guidance on cleaning schedules for transport operators. There was only ever a legal requirement for passengers to wear a face mask unless legally exempt – which has now been removed.

Why the Travel with Confidence safety accreditation is vital to protect drivers and users?

Travel with Confidence is a national transport safety accreditation which has been specifically developed to close the infection control gap which exists in the taxi and minicab industry and public transport. It is the only scheme of its kind in the country. TWC is benchmarked to CQC requirements in the medical transportation industry and upgrades the taxi and minicab industry to the same standard, regardless of where the drivers or vehicles are licensed in the country.

Image of rear window of London style taxi showing the TWC logo and a reflection of a masked driver

The scheme is currently being rolled-out to Hertfordshire’s approximately 4000 licensed taxi and minicab drivers and aims to accredit all licensed drivers by the end of next year. Each driver is trained in Infection Control Standard Procedures related to the taxi and minicab industry and vehicles are regularly inspected to ensure cleanliness standards are being continually met and that accredited providers are using appropriate PPE and effective, high quality cleaning products. If standards are not met, drivers lose the accreditation – it is as simple as that. Travel with Confidence is also open for Public Transport operators across the country.

Accredited providers are collated on the official website and the scheme is marketed in local areas so users know how to book approved vehicles. The Infection Control Standard Procedures which Travel with Confidence embeds means that accredited providers are given the tools to understand risk management and how to reduce the likelihood of infection spreading.

As the country begins to open, and mandatory infection control precautions are removed by the UK Government, the Travel with Confidence accreditation is now more important than ever to help ensure the country can keep control of the virus and not go back to national or local lockdowns.

Joe Mealing

Partner

Mobility Exchange LLP.

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