The head of a Tayside taxi union has said he won’t pick up passengers with breathing conditions, unless they wear a face mask.
Graeme Stephen, chairman of Dundee Taxi Association, is demanding every one of his passengers wear PPE, despite the Scottish Government outlining clear exemptions on medical grounds.
Mr Stephen said he is looking out for his own health and that of his family and said those with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma could easily pass on the virus if positive.
A leading chest disease charity has voiced disapproval at the policy and urged respect for those exempt.
The Scottish Government meanwhile has said nobody should be denied access to a taxi if they are exempt from the rules.
Mr Stephen said: “I’m not having it. I don’t care what the government say about exemptions.
“I need to do what is best for my health and my family’s health.”
He said: “I see people smoking and walking fast then they jump in my taxi and claim they don’t have to wear a mask.
“I have regular confrontations with people who claim they don’t have to wear one. The journeys are usually only five minutes, so just put it on.
“Those with COPD are more likely to be coughing — it’s just not right. Why should I put myself at risk when it’s not necessary?
“My wife works in a health centre and the place could get shut down if I get it and pass it on to her.”
Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland CEO Jane-Claire Judson disagreed with the reasoning.
She said: “People with serious breathing problems like asthma or COPD can find it difficult to wear a mask – and that’s why Scottish Government guidance makes it clear that exemptions do apply.
“We would urge everyone who is not exempt to wear a face covering – and for respect to be shown to people who cannot wear a mask for health reasons.
“We are all in this together and by following Scottish Government guidance on face coverings we can all help beat this virus.”
Mr Stephen said many customers are more than happy to wear a mask despite being exempt.
“I had a passenger with COPD the other day and he said he would wear one to protect me,” he said.
“I rolled down my window so he had plenty of air and it was fine.
“I can’t put a partition in my car so there is no barrier.
“I think the exemption needs to be removed. I keep spare masks to hand out in the taxi and I will not take anyone without one.”
A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “The conditions of a Taxi Driver’s Licence require passengers to be carried unless the driver has a reasonable excuse for not doing so.
“The Licensing Committee will determine any circumstances of any cases which are reported to it.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The guidance on the use of face coverings makes clear that it may not be appropriate for some people who have a health condition to wear a face covering and, as the First Minister has said, no one should be abused or treated in an unacceptable way and those exempt under the regulations should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to public transport, shops or indoor public places.
“Those exempt under the guidance and regulations do not have to prove their exemption.”