TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — With Taiwan's first widespread coronavirus outbreak driving an ever-increasing number of people to work and study from home, food delivery giants foodpanda and Uber Eats have tailored their operations to the new reality with measures aimed to ensure safe drop-offs and support drivers who may need to quarantine.
The sudden surge in cases in northern Taiwan earlier this month and rapid community spread prompted Taipei and New Taipei City to declare a Level 3 alert on May 15. The rest of the nation followed four days later.
Once the Level 3 alert went into effect in Taipei and New Taipei, Uber Eats was the first service in the twin cities to mandate "leave at door" and "cashless payment" via credit/debit card or Apple Pay, explained Uber Eats Communications Lead Jessica Pan (潘瑞蓮).
As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) expanded the alert to the whole of Taiwan, the San Francisco-headquartered company extended these requirements to all 18 cities and counties where it has operations. "If escalations cool down to Level 2, we will make relevant changes," Pan said.
The company also enhanced its hygiene requirements. Not only are drivers required to wear a mask while on deliveries, but a new AI feature has been introduced "to ensure delivery partners are wearing masks before they are allowed to go online," said Uber Eats Taiwan General Manager Chai Lee (李佳穎).
"Uber Eats is part of the Taiwan community as we serve hundreds of thousands of users through delivery service," Lee said. "In this uncertain time, fighting the spread of COVID-19 with upgraded hygiene safety measures is a top priority for us as delivery is an essential service to us all."
In the event that a driver is infected or required to quarantine after making a high-risk contact, Uber Eats will compensate him or her for up to the full 14 days. A company working group has been tasked with determining the exact amount of compensation.
To make it easier on vendors looking to partner with Uber Eats during this difficult period, the company has suspended the activation fee until May 31 in addition to waiving the service fee for the first three months of new partnerships.
Meanwhile, foodpanda has partnered with Cathay Pacific Property and Casualty Insurance to insure its drivers as they make their deliveries. While drivers who must quarantine as a precaution are not eligible for compensation, those diagnosed with the virus will receive an automatic one-time payment of NT$30,000, according to Spokesperson Emma Kuo (郭昕宜).
The company has also unveiled a NT$10 million (US$359,589) fund to support local vaccinations, with the hope that all its riders in Taipei and New Taipei will be vaccinated by the end of Q3 2021, stated.
From May 10-16, during the first week of Taiwan's community spread, the most popular Uber Eats orders were for Taiwanese dishes, breakfast and brunch, milk tea, Chinese dishes, American food, Japanese cuisine, "healthy" meals, coffee and tea, and desserts, in that order. Orders for groceries had risen significantly, according to Pan, though the company would not reveal specific numbers.
The most-ordered grocery items on foodpanda's pandamart that same week were fruits, vegetables, and instant noodles. Other top choices were staples such as beverages, rice, oil, dairy, eggs, toilet paper, frozen goods, and special offers.
Kuo stated that in the week following the initial local outbreak, lunch and dinner orders have shot up by nearly 40 percent, while grocery orders have seen a five-fold increase. Overall, there were 20 percent more foodpanda orders on May 20 compared to pre-outbreak levels. Most of that growth took place in hard-hit Taipei and New Taipei.