Uber to require drivers and riders to wear face masks beginning May 18

An Uber logo is seen on a sign outside the company's headquarters location as people protest nearby in San Francisco, California on May 8, 2019. - One of the early promises of the ride-hailing era ushered in by Uber and Lyft was that the new entrants would complement public transit, reduce car ownership and help alleviate congestion. But a new study on San Francisco has found the opposite may be in fact be true: far from reducing traffic, the companies increased delays by 40 percent as commuters ditched buses or walking for mobile-app summoned rides. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Uber will start requiring all drivers and riders to wear face masks as part of new safety measures being implemented in order to help combat the spread of COVID-19 as states begin reopening and people return to work.

Starting May 18, the ride-sharing company said it will begin requiring a mask or face covering in the U.S., Canada, India, most of Europe and Latin America.

Uber said it will enforce the rule by making drivers upload a selfie in the app that can detect if they’re wearing a mask. They’ll also be required to confirm other safety measures on a checklist, including the fact that they don’t have COVID-19 or related symptoms, that they’ve sanitized their vehicle and have washed their hands.

Riders will also have to confirm they’ve taken similar precautions, such as wearing a face cover and sanitizing their hands. The company said riders must also agree to sit in the back seat and open windows for ventilation.

Uber said this will mean every ride will have one less passenger seat available, such as an UberX ride will now only allow a maximum of three passengers instead of four.

The company said both drivers and riders can cancel trips without penalty if they don’t feel safe, such as if either isn’t wearing a face cover. If someone removes their mask mid-trip, they can also report the issue on the app.

Those who repeatedly violate the mask policy will be kicked off the app, the company said.

“Accountability is key—and it goes both ways,” Uber said in a statement, which added that the new policies will be in effect through the end of June and the company will reassess “based on local public health needs.”

Uber said it also allocated $50 million for supplies like masks, hand sanitizer, wipes and disinfectant for drivers and delivery people to use in their vehicles and provide to riders.

Fellow ride-sharing company Lyft also announced similar safety measures last week, requiring face masks for drivers and riders and distributing cleaning supplies and masks for drivers.

As ride-share companies grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its impact on business, both Uber and Lyft have laid off hundreds of employees in the past month. Uber also said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will waive his base salary through the end of 2020.

Social distancing guidelines and shutdowns of bars, restaurants and other businesses to help halt the spread of COVID-19 have meant a rapidly deteriorating customer base for ride-share drivers across the country.

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