Photo/Illutration Taxis wait in front of JR Sendai Station in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

For those not wearing a face mask and hailing a cab in Tokyo, they will soon find themselves out of luck of getting a ride.

The transport ministry on Nov. 4 approved allowing taxi drivers to refuse service to a customer not wearing a mask without good reason. 

Ten taxi companies in Tokyo applied to the ministry in late August to change the set of rules as a safeguard against the novel coronavirus.

Other taxi companies outside Tokyo may follow in their tracks.

The ministry said under the new condition, drivers can decline to give a customer a ride if they refuse to explain why they are not wearing a mask or fail to give a good reason for not doing so. 

If a customer has a legitimate excuse, such as having an illness, and the driver accepts the explanation, then the passenger can enter the vehicle.

Taxi companies have added plastic curtains between the driver’s seat and back seat to lower the risk of spreading the virus during the pandemic.

But drivers have had difficulty dealing with passengers, particularly drunken ones, who ignore health protocols and continue talking loudly without wearing a mask.

Ten companies urged the ministry to allow drivers to decline accepting such fares.

Under the Road Transportation Law, the ministry predetermines the conditions of carriage for each taxi operating company. The law has determined that taxi drivers cannot refuse service unless the customer has a new type of influenza or is heavily intoxicated and incapable of walking without support.