Photo by Shaela Dansereau.

Wetaskiwin taxi service has passenger share his ride against COVID-19 restrictions

“I open the door and there’s this lady sitting there.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about day-to-day life; everything from how people work to how they get to work.

One of these changes is how ride-for-hire services are allowed to operate. Under restrictions put in place by the City of Wetaskiwin during the pandemic, ride-for-hire services must adhere to these new regulations.

Some of these restrictions include that disinfecting supplies must be visible to the passenger and used to thoroughly clean the vehicle after every trip. As well as that there can be no more than one passenger per vehicle, with exceptions to that restriction being if the individuals are in a close personal relationship, a required caregiver, or if the size and capacity of the vehicle allows for two metres between each passenger and the driver such as a shuttle bus.

On May 3, 2020, Parker Nicol called Eagle Taxi for a ride home from where he worked at Safeway. The weather was windy and rainy, but Nicol didn’t mind waiting for the Taxi; a pleasantly dry alternative to the rain.

When Eagle Taxi arrived, Nicol was faced with something he wasn’t expecting.

“I open the door and there’s this lady sitting there,” Nicol said. “She didn’t look entirely healthy.”

Nicol said as a non-confrontational person he didn’t want to say anything, in addition to having waited an extended period of time for the ride.

They were already on route when Nicol said he registered that he wasn’t supposed to be sharing a ride with a stranger. Nicol was uneasy that he was picked up in the Taxi he called and was expected to share a ride.

He admits that he should have clued in sooner about the restrictions on the situation that were being broken. His unease continued when the stranger sitting in the back of the Taxi with him began to cough.

“The woman starts coughing,” Nicol said, recalling the taxi ride. “Then she continued to cough, and cough, and sneeze.”

Nicol said that, “there is a very real possibility that the woman did only have allergies.” However, he said it is appalling to him that allergies or otherwise Eagle Taxi would let people ride share during COVID-19.

Given that Nicol did not have a relationship with the other commuter in the taxi, or even know her, Eagle Taxi had breached the City of Wetaskiwin’s COVID-19 restrictions for ride-for-hire services.

Nicol’s mother called the company that night to inquire further and Nicol says that they were very dismissive.

The Pipestone Flyer reached out to Eagle Taxi numerous times for their account of events and they declined to answer.

If a ride-for-hire service in Wetaskiwin doesn’t follow the restrictions set out by the City of Wetaskiwin surrounding COVID-19 protocol, any one with concerns can report it to Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“The guidelines that I provided to the ride-share industry in Wetaskiwin were recommendations to facilitate compliance and reinforce the public health orders and other restrictions issued by the Provincial Chief Medical Officer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Director of Emergency Management with the City of Wetaskiwin, Robert Osmond. “Any concerns that a business is operating in contravention of these orders and restrictions should be reported to AHS using their online form at https://ephisahs.microsoftcrmportals.com/create-case/.”



shaela.dansereau@pipestoneflyer.ca

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