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Meituan, China’s top food delivery app, is providing delivery workers’ temperature readings to customers.
A Meituan delivery driver stands next to a vegetables stall set up by restaurant employees at its entrance after the extended Lunar New Year holiday caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Beijing’s central business district, China February 10, 2020.
With millions of people under coronavirus quarantine in China, meeting basic needs — such as securing food — comes with unique challenges. When eating out or making routine trips to the supermarket becomes either impossible or undesirable, ordering in is one of few options. For those who are confined to their own homes as part of an effort to halt contagion, food delivery companies have transitioned from selling convenience to survival.
But food delivery comes with its own set of potential pitfalls, for both customers and couriers. As orders increase due to the spread of the disease, so too does people’s wariness of direct human contact. In response, restaurants and food delivery companies have started taking precautions to mitigate the risk.
Late last month, China’s top food delivery company Meituan launched “contactless delivery” in Wuhan, coronavirus epicentre, before rolling it out to 184 cities nationwide, the South China Morning Post reports. True to its name, the service allows customers to place orders via the app and pick them up at designated areas such as doorsteps and lobbies. Competitor delivery app Eleme, and fast-food chains KFC and Pizza Hut have also introduced contactless delivery options in China, according to Business Insider .
In Wuhan, where “many grocery stores and supermarkets have been emptied out,” Meituan has reportedly installed lockers in close proximity to hospitals where healthcare workers can pick up their meals using a QR code. As the BBC reports, Meituan donates 1,000 complimentary meals each day to medical staff, and is supplying them with fresh ingredients to cook with as well.
Some restaurant chains — including Yunhaiyao and Nayuki — have started including a “reassurance guarantee” slip with every order, the Financial Times reports. On it, the temperatures of all those who have handled the food, from the bakers, cooks and tea brewers to the courier. “It’s very convenient and fast, we have handheld temperature sensors to check people’s wrists,” a Yunhaiyao employee reportedly said.
Meituan’s 700,000 couriers, outfitted in distinct yellow jackets, now also wear a card detailing their temperature and indicating whether or not they have disinfected their delivery box. “These couriers have become the heroes of China along with the medical professionals,” Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, told the Financial Times . “The online food retailers have calmed the country down more than anyone, even the government, because they are showing people they can buy food at reasonable prices.”
According to government data, the cost of food has surged more than 20 per cent in China since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Most notably — given China is the largest consumer of it in the world — is the cost of pork. According to National Bureau of Statistics statistics reported by Xinhua, already on the rise because of African swine fever, pork prices have surged 116 per cent since last year and vegetables were 17 per cent pricier.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020