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Japan’s transport ministry on Wednesday allowed taxi drivers in Tokyo to refuse passengers who are not wearing face masks without a valid reason, amid persistent concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The approval of the provision, requested by 10 taxi companies in the capital, could also affect the norms of etiquette in other areas of the country.

Japan’s road transportation law stipulates that taxi operators cannot deny passengers unless they are heavily intoxicated or violent to drivers, among other special circumstances.

Taxi operators set rules based on the law that have to be authorized by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The Tokyo taxi companies had asked the ministry to allow them to change part of the rules as behavior such as drunk passengers speaking loudly without wearing masks would increase the risk of coronavirus infection for taxi drivers.

“The provision does not endorse an across-the-board refusal of people who are not wearing face masks,” a transport ministry official said, adding that if their customers are maskless, taxi drivers should check whether they have health or other unavoidable reasons.

The ministry said the provision was approved to protect not only taxi drivers but also subsequent riders.

Since the outbreak of the virus, taxi companies in Japan have been taking precautionary measures such as frequent disinfection of vehicles. Drivers are required to wear face masks and undergo body temperature checks as well.

Article first published in The Japan Times on Nov. 4.

Warm up

One minute chat about your main mode of transportation.

Game

Collect words related to taxis, e.g., cab, driver, fare, hail.

New words

1) valid: legally or officially acceptable, e.g., “I don’t have a valid form of identification.”

2) provision: a measure taken beforehand to deal with a need, e.g., “There is a provision for additional funds if the pandemic continues.”

3) stipulate: to specify a requirement, e.g., “The rules stipulate all players must be over 18 years old.”

Guess the headline

Tokyo taxi drivers allowed to r_ _ _ _ _ passengers not w_ _ _ _ _ _ masks

Questions

1) Japanese law says taxi drivers can’t refuse passengers except for two reasons, what are they?

2) How could passengers spread the coronavirus?

3) Who is excluded from the new rule?

Let’s discuss the article

1) How often do you use taxis?

2) What do you think of this new rule about refusing maskless passengers?

3) What other measures could passengers take to stop the spread of coronavirus?

Reference

客商売の仕事は相手を選ぶことができないと思われがちですが、明確なルールを設けることで予防線をはることはできます。マスク着用の有無による騒動がたびたび話題になる中で、タクシーという密室空間でのサービスを提供する業界は新たな規定を設けることとなりました。

お客様は神様だという言葉も一時はあったようですが、安定したサービスを受けるためにも顧客が協力的であることはかかせないでしょう。今後もこのような流れは加速していくのでしょうか。朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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