Catching taxi and Ubers is likely to be a very different experience for customers after one driver drove for several days around Sydney while infected with COVID-19.
QR codes, already used by restaurants in New South Wales for patrons to check in, may soon be enforced for cabs and ride-sharing, meaning when and where customers travelled will be traceable by authorities.
Health officials are currently urgently tracking the nine passengers who caught the infected driver’s cab between September 7 to 10 and 14 to 18.
The passengers were driven around the areas of Moorebank, Bankstown, Chipping Norton, Liverpool, Lidcombe, Warwick Farm and Milperra in Sydney’s southwest, while the man also visited venues in Campbelltown and on the south coast.
The state’s chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Tuesday that while the man had the COVIDsafe app, the cab company’s booking and trip details had to be accessed to track down customers.
‘The industry may say that they’ve got another solution for us. I have found the QR codes personally very effective, and it may well be fit for purpose for Ubers and other taxis,’ she said.
A raft of other recommendations are already in place for the taxi industry, such as the use of tap-and-go payments, and drivers told not to help with luggage, and required to clean the interior of their vehicles as well as exterior door handles at the end of each shift.
Ms Chant also said customers should also be wary of their own safety and advised passengers ‘to sit in the back of the taxi seat diagonally opposite the driver, and also to wear a mask when you’re in cab.’
The nine passengers were in the cab for between six and 55 minutes with experts warning that the confined space of the cab was a coronavirus hazard.
‘Every extra minute is extra risk,’ clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Fiona Stanaway told the ABC.
She recommended considering trains or splitting longer trips between cabs and other public transport.
‘There’s almost no one on the trains at the moment so you are more spaced than you can be in a taxi,’ she said, adding that traffic can also affect the length of your trip on the roads.
More than 6,500 business in NSW already use the QR check-in codes, with the majority of those being dine-in food or drink service venues.
On Wednesday, New South Wales reported zero locally acquired cases of coronavirus for the second consecutive day, while six cases were found in returning travellers in hotel quarantine.