Rides sharing services are enforcing new guidelines to keep passengers and drivers safe during the coronavirus outbreak.
The announcements come as social distancing laws are enforced across Australia including leaving 1.5 metres of space between people and the banning of gatherings of more than two people, apart from immediate family, with measures expected to last for the coming months.
In order to comply with the changing social restrictions, Uber Australia sent an email to its customers informing them of the new rules they must adhere to when using their service.
Become a backseat rider
The email urged customers to only request their service for essential travel and drivers will now ask all passengers to sit in the back seat.
“If you must travel, please sit in the back seat to give you and your driver more space” the email sent out March 31 read.
DiDi, who recently launched into the Australian ride sharing market have also requested passengers take a back seat.
“Riders should only ride in the back seat of vehicles and follow all safety protocols as outlined by the Australian Government Department of Health,” a DiDi spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
While sitting in the back seat of a standard vehicle may not give passengers and drivers the full recommended 1.5 metre distance, Jason Tetro, the author of The Germ Code and microbiology and immunology expert said it’s the best option.
“As for front vs back seat, I would suggest back seat as it provides some distance between you and the driver. It may not be perfect social distancing but if you need to get around, it can help,” Mr Tetro told Yahoo News.
Limiting passenger numbers
As states around Australia begin to enforce the two person gathering rule, Uber have also placed limits on how many passengers can sit in one vehicle.
UberX, Comfort and Premier trips now have a maximum of three passengers, while larger UberXL vehicles will limit passengers to five.
A DiDi spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia they have gone “above and beyond what the state regulators have required” and have announced a smaller limit on passenger numbers regardless of vehicle size.
“In order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and in response to the Australian Government’s latest advice on social gatherings, DiDi is recommending that no more than two passengers ride in a DiDi for any one trip,” a spokesperson said.
Both Didi and Uber have allowed drivers to cancel rides if too many passengers try to get into a vehicle.
Masks for drivers
DiDi is also distributing complimentary care packs to its driver-partners, containing optional face masks.
“The Australian Government Department of Health advice is that individuals who are well do not need to wear masks, but these are available to active DiDi driver-partners who want them,” the company said.
Both Uber and DiDi have requested drivers focus on deep cleaning vehicles and it’s something Mr Tetro agrees is necessary.
“The best way to stay safe is to have a disinfectant wipe down between passengers. It’s easy and does not take much time.
“Give any hard nonporous surface a wipe and make sure to include the seat belt,” he said.
And if you are unsure if your ride sharing vehicle has been cleaned before you, Mr Tetro said hand hygiene should be your priority.
“The best advice is to keep the hand sanitiser close so that you can keep your hands safe after you’ve climbed into the car and buckled in and then after you get out,” he said.
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