Uber opens app for public in five cities, to visit hospitals and pharmacies

NEW DELHI: Ride-sharing app Uber on Tuesday opened its cabs for essential travel for the public to visit pharmacies and hospitals, though restricting the facility to only five cities.
The company also said that it looks forward to resumption of full services once the lockdown is lifted, even as it is yet to take a call on opening of car-pool, or shared services.
A senior Uber official said that to ensure safety and hygiene on its cabs, the company is looking to mandate masks, hand sanitisers and gloves for its driver.
The company, which had suspended services across the country after the announcement of the national lockdown, is currently operating partial rides, mainly for delivery of essential products (in partnership with players such as Big Basket and Flipkart) or to transport doctors and other health workers, Prabhjeet Singh, director of operations, said.
The new service being added to its limited operations is called ‘Uber Essentials’ which will help get taxis for travel to hospitals and pharmacies. The service will be available in Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Nashik and Hyderabad.
“All riders on Uber Essential are mandated to carry relevant documentation to validate their purpose of travel to authorities… The app has been designed to facilitate urgent travel needs to essential service areas only,” Singh said.
Through zero commission charges, the company is ensuring that most of the benefits of the rides made in such hazardous conditions are passed on to the driver partners, many of whom are facing financial hardships due to lack of business.
Speaking about lockdown and plans to work put safety protocols once the business resumes, Singh said that strategies are currently under preparation. “It is tough to define specific measures as of now. The plans are in an evolution stage. We will continue to work with local authorities and wait for guidance from the central and state governments.”
Asked whether pool services will be re-launched once the lockdown lifts, he said no decision has been taken as of yet. The pool services, a cheaper version which allows multiple riders to take the same cab and share the fare, had been suspended in India on March 21 by both Uber and rival Ola as fears around coronavirus started growing and social distancing norms started getting deployed.
The Uber official said that the company has taken a number of steps to ensure that driver partners get relief in this hour of crisis. “Their earnings have been hit. While the leasing fee is being waived off for those who have availed the facilities from us, we are also helping drivers avail the EMI moratorium announced by the government. Drivers have also begun receiving the first batch of grants from Rs 25 crore deposits into the Uber Care Driver Fund, created in partnership with Give India, a leading online donation platform, and Samhita, a social enterprise.”

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