Coronavirus Updates: Protective screens installed by Addison Lee, Uber

Addison Lee Uber protective screen
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Taxi company Addison Lee and ride hailing firm Uber are installing protective screens between drivers and passengers as a new safety measure.

Addison Lee and Uber announced that they are installing protective screens between drivers and passengers as additional safety measure as the government looks to loosen its coronavirus pandemic restrictions and people go back to work.

Increased safety through partitions

According to Addison Lee, it will install perspex partition screens between drivers and passengers in all of its 4,000 vehicles next week.

Meanwhile, Uber hired the AA to install partitions in 400 cars in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham as part of an initial pilot.

Both companies are providing free protective equipment to drivers. The announcements follow calls for increased protections for drivers and passengers.

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Addison Lee chief executive officer (CEO) Liam Griffin said: “We know there is significant demand from drivers, passengers, businesses and the general public for more to be done to make transport cleaner and safer as we go back to work – including calls for the introduction of partition screens into private hire vehicles.”

“That’s why we have taken the decision to begin rolling out the installation of safety screens between drivers and passenger seats,” Griffin added.

Transport guidelines

Uber stated that its planned pilot in the North East of England is important for the ride hailing company to better understand how to transport passengers from one place to another in the safest possible way.

The partition screens will first be tested in areas where it has been given permission by the regulator or city council, in order to ensure that the screens are installed safely.

The guidance for taxi and private hire vehicle firms has been updated by Transport for London (TfL) on Wednesday.

Under the updated guidance, companies are advised to have drivers and passengers socially distance by having the passengers sit in the vehicle’s back seat. Drivers are also advised to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol in their vehicle.

However, in terms of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, gloves or partition walls, TfL is still waiting for recommendations from the London Strategic Coordination Group (SCG) before mandating additional coronavirus prevention and control measures.

Regulation vs Advice

Some taxi companies in the UK are calling on the government to clarify health and safety precautions that they need to take once lockdowns have been lifted. They have expressed preference to have regulation rather than just advice.

Taxi drivers in Wales said they are anxious about passengers but they still need approval from their local councils before they can make any modifications to their vehicles.

James Farrar, chair of the trade body United Private Hire Drivers, said: “Two months into a public health emergency which has seen private hire drivers suffer one of the highest occupational mortality rates, yet TfL and the Department for Transport (DfT) are still not taking responsibility to introduce necessary safety controls.”

“Poor regulatory standards and employment misclassification has become a lethal combination for desperately exploited drivers,” Farrar added.

The trade body has stated concerns over Uber’s decision not to provide partition screens to drivers in other parts of the UK, such as London, where the largest concentration of Uber drivers can be found.

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