Nfld. & Labrador

'Record low' taxi calls on Easter weekend, Jiffy manager says

Stark warnings about keeping apart during Easter weekend may have been heard, as taxi traffic was significantly down, according to Jiffy Cabs business manager George Murphy.

Newfound Cabs owner says business is down, but people still aren't listening

George Murphy, the business manager at Jiffy Cabs in St. John's, says business was way down this past Easter weekend. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Stark warnings about keeping apart during Easter weekend may have been heard, as taxi traffic was significantly down, according to the manager of one of the largest cab companies in the St. John's area. 

COVID-19 warnings ahead of the long weekend came loud and clear from Newfoundland and Labrador's premier, health minister and chief medical officer of health. 

From George Murphy's perspective, people were listening — at least the ones tempted to call a cab. 

"Saturday was probably a record low for us with regards to the number of calls that we had," said Murphy, the business manager of Jiffy Cabs. 

"It was a pretty quiet weekend for all intents and purposes." 

N.L. officials launched a cascade of warnings last week, urging people to stay home alone and forgo traditional get-togethers on the Easter weekend. 

"These gatherings are now dangerous. There are other ways of doing them," Health Minister John Haggie said last week. 

On a scale of one to 10, this weekend was a six and it should have been a two.- Albert Newell

Murphy said there were just shy of 480 calls for a taxi in the St. John's area over 24 hours Saturday, compared to roughly 3,000 on a regular Saturday. There were just 120 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

"It's been an extreme drop, definitely noticeable more so this time around than what it has been in previous weeks. It certainly seems like it's a good signal that people were adhering to most of the orders to stay home and stay in out of it," he said. 

Newfound Cabs owner Albert Newell says there are still too many people out and about, ignoring physical distancing instructions. 

"On a scale of one to 10, this weekend was a six and it should have been a two," he said Monday afternoon. 

"People are not listening," added Newell, saying they're down to 30 cars on the road from the usual fleet of 126. 

The owner of Newfound Cabs, Albert Newell, says business has dropped but too many people are still disregarding the province's COVID-19 restrictions. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Local taxi companies will allow only two passengers in a vehicle at a time — in the back seat — and will sanitize between each fare. 

"I guess you could say it's good for us in one way, bad for us in another, that the business certainly isn't there. We're down to pretty much a skeleton crew that still operates out there, and God love 'em for doing that," he said. 

Although Murphy said there's "minimal talk" of installing Plexiglas barriers to protect drivers from the virus, both he and Newell said it's a costly measure and now is not the time. 

Following the orders 

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's COVID-19 unit was active Easter weekend to enforce public health emergency orders, and noted officers "have the ability to issue summary offence tickets under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act."

Haggie said Monday that police were investigating a few reports of potential breaches of those orders over the weekend.

Murphy said Jiffy staff are ready to report violations through the provincial government's website.

"they felt it was only right," he said. "We had word of one party, I think it was on Thursday."

It's not clear how many potential incidents have been flagged so far. 

"Most of [taxi traffic] is essential workers. We still get people that are going out there for groceries, going out there to get their necessities, and then they're going home after," Murphy said. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan McCabe is a former journalist who worked with CBC News in St. John's.

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