Coronavirus: Is Uber still safe to use?

Nadine Carroll
·5-min read

During the rise of COVID-19 confirmations in Australia social distancing is recommended when you do need to leave the house so if you chose to avoid public transport and opt for an Uber, how safe are ride sharing services during the spread of coronavirus?

Uber have started providing drivers with disinfectants to help them keep cars clean but as supplies are limited the company said they will be “prioritising distribution to cities with the greatest need”.

What new rules has Uber introduced amid coronavirus?

The most popular ride sharing app in Australia, Uber, has said with the advice of public health authorities they reserve the right to “temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID‑19”.

To make sure drivers who can’t work are supported, Uber said they are providing financial assistance to drivers who have been asked by health authorities to self quarantine for 14 days, how much each driver will receive is based on their average daily earning in the past six months.

“We are supporting drivers and delivery partners who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine by a public health authority. People in these situations will receive compensation for a period of up to 14 days,” a Ubers spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

How much Uber drivers with confirmed covid-19 can expect to recieve
Uber drivers ordered to self quarantine by health officials will receive financial assistance based on their average daily income in the past six months. Source: Uber

Ola Australia confirmed they will also suspend accounts if riders or drivers are identified as confirmed COVID-19 cases, but did not comment on how they will financially support drivers who are required to self-isolate.

“We are also working with authorities to ensure the accounts of exposed or affected Ola drivers and riders are put on hold immediately and that those affected are also contacted,” a Ola spokesperson told Yahoo News.

Ola have also asked drivers to keep windows down when possible and disinfect surfaces if a passenger sneezes or coughs in their car.

DiDi taking most cautious approach

DiDi are taking extreme measures and if a driver suspects you have symptoms related to COVID-19, your account could be temporarily suspended.

“Should a driver and/or rider suspect they are sharing a vehicle with an individual displaying symptoms of COVID-19, they are encouraged to make a report via the app for investigation. Accounts will temporarily be suspended whilst any investigation is occurring,” a DiDi spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

DiDi did not clarify on how investigations were conducted.

If a DiDi driver is confirmed as having COVID-19, the company has vowed to support them.

“We launched a USD $10 million global relief fund which Australian driver-partners can access should they be diagnosed with COVID-19, and we are working on further initiatives to further support our driver-partners,” a DiDi spokesperson said.

a phone displays the Uber ride-hailing app
Uber can now 'temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID‑19'. Source: Getty

What precautions can you take to protect yourself?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed COVID-19 is spread person-to-person and by touching objects which have been contaminated by an infected person so even though using ride sharing services means less chance of mixing with large groups, you could be at risk if the rider before you was sick and didn’t know it yet.

According to The Australian Government Department of Health the best way to avoid contracting the virus is by practising good hygiene and social distancing.

Person using hand sanitiser to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus
If you can't wash your hands after touching shared services, hand sanitiser is the next best option to prevent the spread of germs. Source: Getty

When in a ride sharing service you can implement the following tips to avoid the spread of germs:

  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces such as door handles, window buttons, seat belts and arm rests with anti-bacterial wipes.

  • Avoid touching your face, if you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with your elbow or a tissue that you can dispose of properly.

  • Exercise social distancing advice and try and stay one metre away from people, in a vehicle this can be done by sitting in the back seat which can help protect yourself and the driver.

  • If you can’t wash your hands after exiting a vehicle, make sure to use hand sanitiser.

Bike and scooter hire

If you hire bikes and scooters to make your way around, handle bars and helmets should be used with caution.

Rental service Lime have increased hygiene practices and now require all mechanics and operators in the field to wear gloves and wash their hands frequently but they have also stepped up the way they prepare scooters for riders.

“We have enhanced our cleaning methods and increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting our scooters,” Nick Shapiro, Global Head of Trust and Safety at Lime told Yahoo News Australia.

A Lime user crosses the street in a scooter around the Brisbane CBD
If you plan to rent scooters and bikes, now is a good time to break out the gloves. Source: AAP

The service recommends that customers still take precautions if using a shared vehicle.

“Just as you should wipe down public and shared surfaces with disinfectant, we encourage you to do the same before riding a scooter or bike.

“You could also consider wearing gloves as a precaution as well as washing your hands before and after riding,” Lime said.

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