Taxi drivers feel the pinch
The nightly suspension of commercial activities and movement restrictions as a result of a spike in COVID-19 cases has left taxi drivers across the city in crisis. Their worries multiply many times over at the thought of Ramadan which is just around the corner when there are inevitably fewer customers.
Ibrahim Khamis, a taxi driver from Ruwi said, “Earlier, the stand used to be filled with people, mostly expatriates, travelling as far as Seeb and Mawaleh. They went to every corner of the city. But now things are so challenging. There is hardly anyone at the taxi stand, so passengers have to wait long for the taxi to fill up. Passengers, obviously, get impatient.”
He added that with Ramadan starting soon, most people will rush home to be with their families leaving taxis with no passengers.
The night curfew impacted taxi drivers’ livelihood as most people avoided visiting malls and meeting friends in the evening even before curfew hours.
“We had good business at night. People assume we do not have work at night, but there are many passengers at night, as late as midnight. Muscat has several places that attract crowds at night. Even families hired us to visit these places,” another taxi driver said.
Malls and markets are popular outings which are now affected as a result of suspension of commercial activities and movement restrictions at night.
Some companies also provide transport for their staff to ensure their health and safety. While considered a good step by companies to safeguard their staff, it left taxis with fewer passengers.
“Earlier, there were many office goers and employees working in Ruwi who came to the taxi stand after work. At 6.30pm everyday, we used to struggle to accommodate so many passengers. Now you hardly see any people opting for our services,” said taxi driver Mohammed who prefers to be known only by his first name.
According to Khamis, raising fares is the least of their priorities under these circumstances. “These are tough times for all of us and we need to stand by one another. The virus has affected all of mankind. Most of our passengers do blue-collar jobs. Hiking the fare to even 200bz will impact them,” he said.
“Besides, many of these people have been without salaries for months. If we increase fares now, it won’t be fair on them.”