CAPTION: The taxi was blessed ahead of its first journey in its new role

New community “coronavirus” cab is blessed

Posted: 6th April, 2020

A new community “coronavirus” cab to transport people to routine hospital appointments during the pandemic has been officially blessed by the Right Reverend Mark Rylands, an assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Exeter.

The former black taxi was bought second-hand by the League of Friends of Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Hospital as a means of transporting elderly and vulnerable patients whilst maintaining social distancing.

Taxis have a glass partition which separates the passenger from the driver and, it is hoped, will protect them both from infection.

The vehicle will also be used to transport key workers when needed.

The ceremony took place in the carpark of St Andrews Church, Ashburton.

“It will really address the need for patient transport whilst minimising the risk”

District Councillor Sarah Parker-Khan, chair of the Friends group, said: “Sadly the usual patient journeys, medicine deliveries and doctors’ appointments carried out by District of Ashburton Surgery Helpline (DASH) volunteers had to stop because of the coronavirus restrictions.

“Someone from the Ashburton Community Covid Response Team suggested getting a black cab so people could be separated safely. The League of Friends said it would pay for it.

“We’ve been in close communication with the doctor’s Surgery at Buckfastleigh around many of our practices when delivering practical help on the doorstep to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“They were delighted when we came up with this idea and feel it will really address the need for patient transport, while minimising the risk.

“This is something that could potentially be replicated in lots of towns.”

Team of volunteer drivers

Mrs Parker-Khan said the taxi had been bought locally for less than £500.

It was serviced by a local garage as well as having its paint work refreshed by a volunteer sprayer and was professionally valeted and deep-cleaned.

The Fire Service have shared their decontamination procedures, so the taxi will be thoroughly cleaned between each journey.

Mike Lowry, an Ashburton taxi driver, is training and overseeing a team of volunteer drivers.

He said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea to have a free service like this at this time.”

Bishop Mark, who is Priest-In-Charge of the Ashburton and Moorland Mission Community, said: “The Ashburton Community Covid Response Team, which I am part of, is trying to work out how to offer practical support to the community at this very difficult time.

“St Andrews Church hall is being used as an emergency foodbank hub, but it also has a car park so this is where the cab will set off from.

A film crew from BBC Spotlight was there to cover the blessing

“Coming up to Easter and Maundy Thursday we think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

“He calls them his friends and says ‘you must love one another as I have loved you.’

“It’s a big reminder to us of how God gives up himself to serve the world and his people and that we, as Jesus’ followers, are asked to follow in his footsteps and do likewise.”

People in Ashburton and Buckfastleigh have been asked to come up with a name for the cab.

As well as the inevitable “Cabby McCab Face”, favourite suggestions include Florence, after Florence Nightingale, and Ashleigh, a combination of Ashburton and Buckfastleigh.

A new helpline has been launched for anyone who needs assistance in the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh area, the number is 01364 255919.

You can find more about how churches can help their communities at this time here