Coronavirus: Is it still safe to order food on Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menulog?

Australians practicing social distancing as the coronavirus pandemic spreads are using an app to get food delivered to their door as restaurants start to shut down across the country.

Social distancing is an important measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and food-delivery services are playing their part in enabling people to remain at home to protect themselves and their loved ones.

But are food delivery services a safe option?

Can I still order food?

On Sunday night Scott Morrison announced the shutdown of certain venues across Australia - including pubs, registered and licensed clubs, night clubs, cinemas and places of worship.

Restaurants and cafés are permitted to remain open, only if the venue closes off indoor dining and operates on a takeaway and/or home delivery basis.

This means, you can still order food through apps such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menulog.

Is it safe to order food now?

There has been no advice issued from health organisations warning against ordering food to your door and delivery services have put in measures to boost safety.

“The health and safety of everyone in the Menulog community - restaurants, couriers and customers - is our top priority,” a Menulog spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

The food delivery service says the company has been monitoring advice from both the World Health Organisation and the Australian government.

The spokesperson said the business was rolling out a contactless delivery option “to help restaurants, couriers and customers maintain appropriate social distancing amid the COVID-19 situation”.

Delivery services across Australia have implemented ways to deliver food and keep all parties safe. Source: Menulog
Delivery services across Australia have implemented ways to deliver food and keep all parties safe. Source: Menulog

A spokesperson for Deliveroo said their focus during the ongoing coronavirus situation in Australia “remains on ensuring riders can continue to work safely, restaurants can continue to trade and that the Australian public can still order from local restaurants”.

Uber Eats Regional General Manager for APAC, Jodie Auster, said in a post Uber is working to “ensure the safety of everyone on the Uber platform” stating the company will continue to heed advice from health experts.

As for whether you can contract the coronavirus through food, experts say no.

Dr Ian Williams, chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence the coronavirus is food-borne, according to CNN.

“This really is respiratory, person-to-person. At this point there is no evidence really pointing us towards food [or] food service as ways that are driving the epidemic,” he said.

Of course, it is always best to wash your hands before every meal, pandemic or not.

What measures are food delivery services taking?

Uber Eats, Menulog and Deliveroo have all announced they will have a ‘contactless delivery’ option available for people to select when ordering.

Customers can select the option upon placing their order, doing so is particularly important for those who are in quarantine - whether they are a confirmed case or awaiting results.

The contactless delivery option means people can choose to have their food left in a safe place - like on their doorstep.

By selecting the option on your preferred platform, your courier will be notified and leave your food in the place you have selected.

Picture of a Deliveroo delivery driver on the street in Soho in London, Britain, 20 March 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms to close tonight in an attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19.
Deliveroo now offers 'contactless delivery', so customers do not have to come into contact with couriers. Source: AAP

Deliveroo said for an order to be completed with contactless delivery, riders will let the customer know when they have arrived, place their thermal bag on the ground outside the door, step back at least one metre and wait nearby while the customer gets their food.

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, the Menulog spokesperson said the company is providing guidance on how couriers can complete contactless deliveries and contactless pick-ups from restaurants.

Menulog also said they have taken additional steps and provided additional equipment to assist restaurants and couriers.

“We have also provided additional items to restaurants, including delivery bag seals and additional merchandise for deliveries and have established online information hubs for restaurants, customers and couriers so they can get the most-up-to-date information,” the spokesperson said.

Uber Eats is not just helping customers and couriers during this time, but also restaurants. Source: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg
Uber Eats says it is not just helping customers and couriers during this time, but also restaurants. Source: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

In addition to the contactless delivery option, Uber Eats has also pledged 25,000 delivered meals to hospital workers and frontline services, and stated they are working with local and state governments to figure out how to best implement this.

Deliveroo is also setting up hand sanitiser stations at restaurant hot spots across the country.

Can I tell my delivery driver that I'm self isolating?

Menulog, Deliveroo and Uber Eats allow for you to leave a note when placing a delivery, you may simply request for them to leave your food at the door, or if you wanted to you could mention you are self isolating.

However, you are not required to do so when selecting this feature, nor do any of the delivery services encourage it.

Will my delivery driver be wearing a mask?

None of the food delivery services have said they are requiring drivers or riders to wear a mask at this time.

During this time, couriers may lose out on income if they are asked to isolate or are confirmed positive with COVID-19 and cannot work.

Deliveroo is helping couriers out financially, which is assuring for both those working for the company and customers.

“Last week, Deliveroo announced a ‘hardship fund’ for riders, so those who contract the COVID-19 virus or those who have been instructed to be in isolation by a medical authority will be eligible for financial support,” the Deliveroo spokesperson to Yahoo News Australia.

A Deliveroo worker on March 14, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom, food delivery services have reported a surge in sales as consumers opt to stay in during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Source: Getty Images
A Deliveroo worker in the United Kingdom, food delivery services have reported a surge in sales as consumers opt to stay in. Source: Getty Images

Uber Eats is also offering financial support to delivery partners who have been diagnosed or are isolating.

“We will continue to support delivery partners who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine by a public health authority, providing financial assistance for a period of up to 14 days,” Uber said.

Can I support local businesses through delivery services?

By ordering food through delivery applications, you are helping out local restaurants that are losing dining customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants can now choose to get paid by Uber Eats daily, opposed to weekly which is the norm, and activation fees for restaurants to join the platform have been waived, so they can sign up quickly if need be.

Uber Eats has also extended their platform to caterers.

“With less people dining out and many events cancelled we can help generate new revenue streams for impacted businesses by unlocking new opportunities,” Ms Auster of Uber Eats wrote.

A person orders at a Sydney cafe which has closed its indoor seating area and switched to takeaway only in preparation of a nationwide shut down of cafes, restaurant and licensed venues on Monday. Source: AAP
A person orders at a Sydney cafe which has closed its indoor seating area and switched to takeaway only. Source: AAP

Menulog is now allowing for restaurants to redeploy their own employees to delivery for them through the app.

“We will continue to work very closely with our longstanding partners at Restaurant & Catering Australia to support the restaurant industry in any way we can at this time,” Menulog Managing Director, Morten Belling said in a statement on Monday morning.

Deliveroo has a 24/7 support team which riders, restaurants and customer are encouraged to contact with questions or concerns about COVID-19.

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