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Government should provide assistance to van drivers hit by new Covid-19 measures – Dr Friday

Government should provide  assistance to van drivers hit by new Covid-19 measures – Dr Friday
Dr Godwin Friday, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party

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Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday says the government should step in to help van drivers, who have been placed
in a financial dilemma due to new measures put in place to help manage the spread of COVID-19 in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Health officials recently declared that SVG has moved into a phase of community transmission of the virus. Several new measures followed this announcement, one of which was that public service vehicles are now required to transport only half the amount of people they are licensed to carry.

Minibus operators have expressed their concern for the situation, noting that the pandemic has made it difficult for them and these limitations will only make the situation worse.

“What is going to happen? Who is going to assist those van drivers in order to maintain the public transport system?” Friday asked during the New Times programme this week.

The opposition leader acknowledged the need for the new measure to be enforced.

He added however, that a situation may arise where it becomes cheaper for van drivers to park their vans rather than work to transport half of the people they are licensed to carry.

“…Looking at it from a practical standpoint, knowing that vans operate on the edges to begin with, the bus fares are regulated and they always complain…you have to hustle in order to actually be profitable. Now they can’t hustle in a sense because you have to cut the numbers in half and this creates a burden for them to carry for the rest of us,” Friday said.

The Government Gazette Statutory Rule and Order No. 4, which was published on February 5, gives police the power to ticket persons who act contrary to new measures recently implemented.

A driver of a public service vehicle will be charged $100 if their vehicle carries more than 50 per cent of the persons for which the vehicle is registered and licensed to carry.

Van drivers can also be fined $100 if they drive their vehicle which is carrying a passenger who is not wearing a face mask fitted to the face so as to cover his nose, mouth and chin.

A person who drives or rides in a public service vehicle without a face mask is also liable to a $100 fine.

Friday, while speaking on radio, spoke of what he believes is a failure of the government to provide additional assistance to persons in an effort to help them out of the COVID-19 crisis.

“If you’re providing assistance to van drivers and taxi drivers and vendors and various other people who were affected by the economic fallout, then now that we are at the worst of the situation, I don’t see how you can abandon those people, especially the van drivers. That’s the most clear-cut case. Who is going to help them?…government has to step in to help them in that regard,” he said.