Taxi drivers and their passengers should wear facemasks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to recommendations from North Devon Council (NDC).

The council has issued guidance to taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers in the district following new advice issued by the Government to support local transport services and residents who need to travel by public transport.

NDC said drivers should also consider installing protective screens in their vehicles, providing they do not compromise public safety.

Passengers are also recommended to use a face covering, carry a hand sanitiser and wash their hands before and after travel to help reduce the rate of infection.

Vernon Wood, owner of Silverline Cabs in Bideford, said the industry had been forgotten until now.

He said: “These are measures that my company have had in place since the beginning, however due to lack of guidelines for the industry many drivers have been putting themselves at risk for months.

“As a cabbie I welcome new guidelines but feel they won’t go far enough. I would like to see all taxis and private hire vehicles fitted with screens. As much as I dislike them I feel they are necessary for the protection of customers and driver.

“I feel like we were the forgotten industry and I’m still unhappy that this did not come sooner.”

North Devon Council has set out advice for the public regarding transport, in line with government advice:

– If you can work from home, continue to do so.

– If you need to travel for work, avoid public transport wherever possible.

– Do not expect to return to the transport network you were used to before. The number of people who can be safely transported on buses and trains is severely constrained to enable social distancing.

– If you need to travel, try to walk or cycle as much as possible, if you are able to.

– Shop locally and use local leisure facilities to help ease demand on roads and public transport.

– If using public transport, or taxi and PHVs, use a facial covering, carry a hand sanitiser and wash your hands before and after you travel.

Council leader, Councillor David Worden, said: “Coronavirus has had a profound impact on public transport and will continue to do so long into the future.

“Everyone will have to continue playing a part in reducing demand on services by working from home if they possibly can.

“Please avoid public transport wherever possible and when this is not possible, consider wearing a non-medical covering over your nose and mouth and carry a hand sanitiser to prevent the spread of this disease.”

The latest government advice on face coverings is while they are unlikely to prevent you from getting the virus, they could help prevent you giving it to others.

They are particularly important where social distancing is hard to maintain, but are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing, which remain the most important actions.

The Government has urged the public not to buy medical grade masks, which should be reserved for front line health and care workers, and instead make their own face coverings at home.

People with coronavirus symptoms, as well as members of their household, should continue to follow the advice to self-isolate.