While taking a ride with Uber or Careem is not the most ideal form of transportation in a COVID-19 world, there are times when you might not have a choice. In those instances, it’s imperative to take every precaution to avoid infection or transmittal.
On their part, Uber and Careem have already rolled out a host of new rules and initiatives to help keep both drivers and riders safe. Uber, for example, has even partnered with Unilever to distribute hygiene kits to drivers and couriers across Europe and the MEA region, as well as having provided or reimbursed over 8,000 hand sanitisers, cleaning sprays and disinfectant wipes to drivers and couriers in the MENA region as of June.
If you do decide to hail a cab with either company, here are 5 precautions you should (and in some cases must) take.
1. Wear a mask – it’s not a choice
Let’s start with obvious one here. By now, everyone knows that most governments have mandated that all individuals must wear a mask or face covering when going outside. What some don’t know is that a company like Uber has actually made this a condition for being able to take a ride with them. In some countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, drivers are allowed to cancel any order if a rider isn’t wearing a mask, without incurring a penalty. Drivers, too, will not be able to log onto the app and accept orders if they are not wearing a mask.
A new feedback option in the app flags whether a rider or driver is not wearing a mask. Anyone who is repeatedly flagged for violating the new safety policies risks losing access to Uber’s apps.
2. Keep your hands to yourself
For some, it can be natural to make yourself at home while taking a ride, within the boundaries of respect to the driver of course. In a COVID-19 world, however, you’ll want to avoid resting your arm on the window sill, resting your hands on the car seats, and generally touching surfaces in the vehicle except when necessary. You don’t know who has been there before you. Most drivers will have hand sanitizer available to riders, so feel free to ask, and wash your hands before and after the ride.
Better yet, just wear gloves and avoid this whole issue.
3. Open the windows
While the coronavirus is generally transmitted through contact with droplets from an infected person, which usually happens through touching contaminated surfaces, it can also be transmitted by breathing in droplets lingering in the air, which the World Health Organization (WHO) recently acknowledged. Droplets can linger in the air for hours and are more dangerous in crowded or confined spaces, such as in a vehicle. There’s a reason why it’s advised to stay 6 feet away from individuals in social distancing etiquette.
Therefore, it is safest to open a window in the vehicle when taking a ride to help circulate the air.
4. Take a back seat
While this is the preferred seating position for many, some, like myself, like to ride beside the driver out of respect to them. Many of these Uber or Careem drivers are not taxi drivers by trade (mostly not the case in the MENA region, true), but regular people looking for a new source of income. I and many others have always found it to be more cordial and respectful to them if we sit beside them as a fellow passenger as opposed to a client. It makes small talk more amicable and generally makes the experience more enjoyable.
Now, for the sake of both your driver and yourself, it’s better to sit in the back. In some instances, drivers will enforce this.
5. Opt for contactless payment or in-app funds
While contactless payments are growing in use, people in the Arab world still put more stock in physical cash, as can be seen with the popularity of Cash on Delivery payment when ordering online. Still, this is one time you’ll want to go contactless. Better yet, charge your Uber or Careem account with funds ahead of time and just pay the driver that way. It’s convenient, easy, and most importantly, the safest choice.
For more details, you can find info on the enhanced safety measures Uber has launched here.