If you plan to use Uber's services in the coming weeks and months, be prepared; you will need a face mask.
Uber said Wednesday that it will require drivers, delivery drivers and all users of its services around the world to wear masks, this as many countries around the world begin to ease restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Beginning Monday, the company will require all users of its carpool service in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and most countries in Latin America and Asia to wear masks, and it asks that passengers sit in the back seat.
The company will also reduce the number of passengers allowed on its scheduled routes from four to three.
Uber will publish updates on its driver and passenger applications to inform drivers and users of these changes, executives said in a call to reporters. Repeated breaches of this requirement can result in the deactivation of accounts for drivers and deliverers, they added.
Before drivers start their shift, the application will ask drivers to take a self-portrait with a mask, ensure they are symptom-free, confirm that they have disinfected their vehicle and agree to roll down their windows during trips with passengers.
Sachin Kansal, senior director of product management at Uber, said the company is also considering adding verification measures for users, including self-portraits.
Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber, said Wednesday that the company had allocated more than $50 million to purchase masks and disinfectants for drivers. Uber has acquired more than 20 million face masks and has distributed about 5 million to date.
Driver advocacy groups have criticized Uber and its small American rival Lyft for putting the onus on drivers to buy disinfectants and ensure safety.
Last week, Lyft announced that it would require drivers and passengers to wear protective masks.
As for whether Uber would provide financial assistance to drivers requiring cleaning products, Sachin Kansal did not give a direct answer, but said the company's response was "constantly evolving”. He also explained that drivers could if they wish have Plexiglas screens installed in their cars, though at their own expense.
Chinese car-sharing company Didi pays for the installation of these screens in cars operating in Beijing to help protect drivers and passengers.
Uber's carpooling service, which is available in more than 900 cities around the world, is experiencing a gradual increase in ridership in May from the lows caused by the pandemic in April, the company said last week.