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President of the La Romaine Taxi Association Reynold Dass waiting on passengers on the taxi stand at Mucurapo, San Fernando., yesterday.

Two taxi associations in south Trinidad have raised their fares as stiffer COVID-19 restrictions have put the brakes on their income. Struggling with less income since the virus surfaced in the country 14 months ago, the taxi drivers said they now have no choice.

Customers travelling the La Romaine and Barrackpore routes now have to pay $2 extra.

Initially, the taxis were only allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, but in June the capacity was elevated to 75 per cent.

Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 infections, however, stricter restrictions were imposed, including reverting the taxis to 50 per cent capacity.

La Romaine Taxi Drivers’ Association president Reynold Dass said yesterday that while the fee has been raised, some drivers are still charging the original fare because of the economic hardships in the country.

“Right now, the COVID-19 restrictions are affecting us very bad due to the two passengers now in our vehicle. It taking an hour, an hour and a half to full. We are keeping the protocols, two passengers and we are sanitising our vehicles.”

However, he estimated that only about five per cent of the travelling public utilise the taxi service.

“Is like a ghost town here. People are keeping to the protocols, they are wearing their masks. Is only in the morning you get one or two people and in the evening time. Let’s say between 9 am to 3 pm hardly people on the road.”

Dass said his association has 250 registered drivers but just about 150 of them are plying their vehicles.

“Last year, only about 10 per cent of the drivers were working, now 75 per cent working. Last year, we was still making something small, now we are not making anything at all. We just making back our gas money and something small to take back to our family.”

Asked if he would like financial support from the Government if the restrictions are extended further on May 23, he said, “As our Prime Minister say, this country right now don’t have no money. At least we still coming out here, we trying something hoping we still take home something to our families. We appreciate it if they give us something but we still making a little.”

Lamenting that taxi drivers nationwide would be facing a similar predicament, Dass said people were only travelling to go to work, the supermarket or the drugstore.

In an attempt to curb the virus which is spreading rapidly, only businesses and workers deemed essential are allowed to be open.