A man uses taxi-hailing app on his smartphone on a road in Guangzhou city, South China’s Guangdong province. [Photo/IC]

Transport authorities have fined car-hailing app Didichuxing 1.07 million yuan ($165,037) for 96 cases of violation. Its affiliate Huaxiaozhudache has been fined 340,000 yuan for 12 cases of failing to implement epidemic control and prevention measures.

Declaring this at a News conference on Sunday, the authorities even highlighted some of the cases. For example, on Jan 6, a driver was not wearing a breathing mask. The passenger complained to the platform but did not get a timely response. After similar cases were reported on Saturday, Didichuxing was fined.

Car-hailing apps have definitely made life convenient for many. If you have a driving license and a car that meets standards, you can register as a part-time driver and make an additional income while passengers get a convenient ride and the platform makes profit.

However, the car, being an enclosed space shared by driver and passenger, is also a key point where the virus can spread. The situation is made worse as it is winter and passengers like to keep the windows rolled up.

The authorities have long asked Didichuxing and Huaxiaozhudache to regulate their drivers and passengers. The regulation demands wearing of masks, sanitizing the cars and keeping windows rolled down to maintain air flow. However, it is clear that some drivers are not obeying the rules. In fact, the number of violations – 12 by Huaxiaozhudache and 96 by Didichuxing – is shocking. It seems that many drivers have become complacent because China has for long managed to keep the epidemic under control.

However, the novel coronavirus’ potential to cause harm should never be underestimated. The total number of infections in Shijiazhuang city, capital of North China’s Hebei province, has reached 212 and might continue to rise. Letting down the guard now could lead to the epidemic endangering people’s lives all over again.

Hoping Didichuxing learns a lesson from the fine. It is time for everyone to be on the alert and not let last year’s efforts go in vain.