Nearly two dozens Iranian taxi drivers have died of COVID-2 and hundreds have been infected across the country, the Managing Director of Tehran Municipality's Taxi Company, Morteza Zameni, said on Monday.
Besides being in danger of contracting the virus and losing their lives, taxi drivers have taken a hit from the social distancing measures that have considerably reduced their income.
Zameni said that drivers of shared taxis will have to seek compensation from the government for lost fares due to newly introduced regulations to enforce the government's "intelligent social distancing" plan.
Shared fares or fixed-route car services in Tehran – a city of 8.7 million -- and in other large cities have a considerable role in urban transportation. Fares for fixed routes are set by municipal authorities.
Taxi drivers say the government is implementing its new social distancing measures at their expense because fares have not gone up to cover for the fewer number of passengers they will be serving.
Normally as many as four people share one taxi but a new Health Ministry regulation has limited the number of passengers to limit the spread of coronavirus on taxis. Drivers are now allowed to take a maximum of three passengers at a time.
The details of the "Intelligent social distancing" plan which will allow economic activities to resume from next week have not been announced yet.
The Taxi company official also pointed out that drivers and passengers must consistently be screened, measures must be taken to enforce electronic payment instead of cash by all taxis and drivers infected with the virus should not be allowed to work to prevent the spread of the virus in taxis.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Combat and Management Taskforce on Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani said people should use their own cars and cabs to get to work instead of taking buses or the underground when businesses open again.
Public transportation has been blamed for a quarter of coronavirus infections in Iran. Rouhani said more buses including some of the buses in use for transportation between cities will be added to the urban public transport fleet in larger cities to allow people to sit at safer distances to each other.