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More vaccine mandates expected, amid taxi driver frustration

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More industries could soon be hit with COVID vaccine mandates, as taxi drivers voice frustration about a sudden new jab requirement which comes into force in less than two days.

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The passenger transport vaccination mandate, issued last night, requires all point-to-point drivers working at airports – including taxi, rideshare and chauffeured drivers – to have had at least one vaccine dose by this Thursday, with a booking for a second.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens this morning told reporters other industries could also soon be hit with vaccine mandates, but refused to give details.

The new taxi and rideshare regulation was issued as part of new vaccination rules for passenger transport workers operating from Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Parafield and Port Lincoln airports.

All other airport passenger transport drivers – including bus and shuttle drivers – must have at least one vaccination by December 12.

In addition, a person whose work or duties “relates to the provision of a passenger transport service” – including conductors, booking and ticketing staff and security guards – must have at least one vaccination by December 20.

SA Taxi Council president John Trainer said “it would have been nice if we had been consulted weeks ago, rather than at such short notice”.

“It’s been known for weeks that we were going to be lowering the border restrictions and that we’re going to have a large number of people arriving through the airport in particular who have a greater than normal chance of carrying the COVID virus,” he said.

Trainer said the council did, however, support the vaccine mandate in general “for the safety of the driver and the passenger”.

But he called on the State Government to provide compensation for any driver forced into quarantine after coming into contact with a confirmed case.

“Drivers’ livelihoods depend on the fares that they collect,” he said.

“They’re a small business and if they are off the road there is no income.

“If they’re taken off the road for seven days to go into quarantine because they’re providing an essential service in the community of South Australia then they should be compensated for that loss of income.”

Just a week ago, Stevens said he wasn’t aware of any other industries for which a vaccine mandate was being considered.

But today he said the taxi and rideshare mandate was required “because we are aware of the fact that they will be collecting international arrivals from the airport and taking them to their place of quarantine”.

“They will also be collecting vulnerable people who rely heavily on that service to attend doctors appointments, attend supermarkets and other essential services,” he said.

“We need to make sure they we are protecting the operators of those vehicles but also the protecting the other patrons who rely on those services.”

Asked whether authorities were considering mandating vaccines for any other industries, Stevens said “that’s subject to advice provided to me by SA Health”.

“There may be some being referred to me in the very near future but I’m not able to comment on those at the moment,” he said.

Other groups already subject to vaccine mandates include healthcare workers, police, teachers and aged care workers.

Stevens said about 150 police officers were not yet vaccinated but it was too early to tell how many of them were refusing.

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