What Hong Kong’s Pandemic Experience Taught Uber About Other Cities


OAKLAND, Calif. — In late February, Uber executives had been set to collect in San Francisco to type enterprise plans for the yr because the coronavirus steadily unfold past China. While some executives who had been initially invited had been instructed to remain dwelling, the remaining few huddled at Uber’s headquarters to make plans for the inevitable pandemic.

One of them, Susan Anderson, who managed Uber’s enterprise in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, delivered dangerous information: In Hong Kong, Uber journeys had declined quickly because the coronavirus took maintain.

“People were tracking what the rate of the virus spread was, and we saw that translate into a drop in trips pretty early on,” Ms. Anderson recalled in an interview. “It became obvious that this was not going to be contained.”

Months later, Uber is going through its biggest disaster: maintaining the ride-hailing enterprise afloat when many individuals are nonetheless staying dwelling. Coronavirus totals within the United States, Uber’s highest-revenue market, proceed to develop, difficult cities and native companies which can be attempting to reopen. And rides, not surprisingly, are solely haltingly returning to a semblance of what they had been.

Hong Kong, alternatively, has recovered from the pandemic sooner than most different cities the place Uber operates. The outbreak has been much less extreme there than within the United States, and plenty of commuters have gone again to work. Although Uber’s enterprise in Hong Kong is small and doesn’t generate a lot income, the foothold gave the corporate a preview of how rapidly its enterprise would slip away in the course of the pandemic — but in addition a best-case instance of what its restoration elsewhere may appear like.

At first, drivers had been reluctant to get again behind the wheel. Commuters returned to Uber as soon as restrictions had been lifted, whereas rare riders didn’t. Hong Kong additionally supplied a testing floor for brand new virus security options, like facial recognition software program to detect whether or not drivers had been carrying masks, earlier than they had been launched globally.

The metropolis started lifting restrictions in February, however a second wave of circumstances in March brought about one other dip in rides — an indication of the unsteady restoration that Uber is more likely to see within the United States.

“If the world looked like Hong Kong, we would be in great shape,” Uber’s chief government, Dara Khosrowshahi, mentioned throughout a March name with monetary analysts. At the height of the outbreak in Hong Kong, rides declined 45 p.c, Uber mentioned.

In main U.S. cities, Uber rides dropped as a lot as 80 p.c. On common, that they had begun to get better about 12 p.c final month, the corporate mentioned. The restoration in Hong Kong has been stronger, with enterprise up 70 p.c from its lowest level.

There had been indicators of restoration in states that started reopening, like Georgia, the place enterprise was up 43 p.c, and Texas, up 50 p.c. But these states are beginning to see virus numbers spike, and Uber’s expertise in Hong Kong suggests downturn in enterprise is more likely to comply with.

“It’s been very beneficial for us having a presence here,” Ms. Anderson mentioned of Hong Kong. “It’s given us a few more weeks to understand what this might look like.” She added, “There are some things that are going to hold globally true, and some things that really need regional tailoring.”

Some security measures, like offering sanitizing merchandise to drivers, turned a part of Uber’s international plans. After Hong Kong commuters returned to Uber extra rapidly than informal riders, the corporate elevated its promotion of its commuting providers.

One security measure that may show troublesome to copy in some components of the United States is the acceptance of masks. In Hong Kong, carrying a masks is a generally accepted method to keep away from the unfold of a virus. It made Hong Kong a great place for Uber to check its masks necessities and mask-detection software program earlier than rolling them out within the United States.

In May, Uber started to require masks for drivers and passengers within the United States, however the easy act of asking folks to placed on a masks has develop into contentious. In Australia, public well being officers didn’t advocate masks, so Uber didn’t require them there.

Because of its historical past of coping with virus outbreaks, together with the SARS outbreak in 2003, residents of Hong Kong are conscious about the dangers.

Gary Yau, an Uber driver in Hong Kong, stopped accepting passengers in January as a result of he was fearful about catching the coronavirus and infecting his spouse and toddler son. Now he picks up for or 5 passengers a day. He lastly felt comfy reopening his Uber app after workplaces reopened, whereas some social distancing rules and border closures remained in impact.

  • Updated June 30, 2020

    • What are the signs of coronavirus?

      Common signs embody fever, a dry cough, fatigue and issue respiration or shortness of breath. Some of those signs overlap with these of the flu, making detection troublesome, however runny noses and stuffy sinuses are much less widespread. The C.D.C. has additionally added chills, muscle ache, sore throat, headache and a brand new lack of the sense of style or odor as signs to look out for. Most folks fall ailing 5 to seven days after publicity, however signs could seem in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it tougher to train whereas carrying a masks?

      A commentary revealed this month on the web site of the British Journal of Sports Medicine factors out that protecting your face throughout train “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter train, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit group that funds train analysis and certifies health professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some folks additionally may expertise lightheadedness throughout acquainted exercises whereas masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of train science on the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard a few therapy known as dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the primary therapy proven to scale back mortality in severely ailing sufferers, based on scientists in Britain. The drug seems to scale back irritation brought on by the immune system, defending the tissues. In the research, dexamethasone diminished deaths of sufferers on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of sufferers on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid go away?

      The coronavirus emergency reduction bundle provides many American employees paid go away if they should take day without work due to the virus. It provides certified employees two weeks of paid sick go away if they’re ailing, quarantined or in search of prognosis or preventive look after coronavirus, or if they’re caring for sick members of the family. It provides 12 weeks of paid go away to folks caring for youngsters whose colleges are closed or whose baby care supplier is unavailable due to the coronavirus. It is the primary time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid go away, and consists of individuals who don’t usually get such advantages, like part-time and gig economic system employees. But the measure excludes a minimum of half of private-sector employees, together with these on the nation’s largest employers, and provides small employers vital leeway to disclaim go away.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 occur?

      So far, the proof appears to point out it does. A extensively cited paper revealed in April means that individuals are most infectious about two days earlier than the onset of coronavirus signs and estimated that 44 p.c of recent infections had been a results of transmission from individuals who weren’t but displaying signs. Recently, a high skilled on the World Health Organization said that transmission of the coronavirus by individuals who didn’t have signs was “very rare,” however she later walked again that assertion.

    • What’s the danger of catching coronavirus from a floor?

      Touching contaminated objects after which infecting ourselves with the germs shouldn’t be usually how the virus spreads. But it could possibly occur. A variety of research of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and different microbes have proven that respiratory diseases, together with the brand new coronavirus, can unfold by touching contaminated surfaces, significantly in locations like day care facilities, workplaces and hospitals. But a protracted chain of occasions has to occur for the illness to unfold that manner. The greatest method to shield your self from coronavirus — whether or not it’s floor transmission or shut human contact — continues to be social distancing, washing your palms, not touching your face and carrying masks.

    • How does blood kind affect coronavirus?

      A research by European scientists is the primary to doc a powerful statistical hyperlink between genetic variations and Covid-19, the sickness brought on by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 p.c enhance within the chance affected person would wish to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, based on the brand new research.

    • How many individuals have misplaced their jobs as a result of coronavirus within the U.S.?

      The unemployment price fell to 13.three p.c in May, the Labor Department mentioned on June 5, an surprising enchancment within the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded sooner than economists anticipated. Economists had forecast the unemployment price to extend to as a lot as 20 p.c, after it hit 14.7 p.c in April, which was the best for the reason that authorities started maintaining official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment price dipped as an alternative, with employers including 2.5 million jobs, after greater than 20 million jobs had been misplaced in April.

    • How can I shield myself whereas flying?

      If air journey is unavoidable, there are some steps you’ll be able to take to guard your self. Most vital: Wash your palms typically, and cease touching your face. If attainable, select a window seat. A research from Emory University discovered that in flu season, the most secure place to sit down on a airplane is by a window, as folks sitting in window seats had much less contact with doubtlessly sick folks. Disinfect exhausting surfaces. When you get to your seat and your palms are clear, use disinfecting wipes to wash the exhausting surfaces at your seat like the top and arm relaxation, the seatbelt buckle, the distant, display, seat again pocket and the tray desk. If the seat is tough and nonporous or leather-based or pleather, you’ll be able to wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats may result in a moist seat and spreading of germs quite than killing them.)

    • What ought to I do if I really feel sick?

      If you’ve been uncovered to the coronavirus or suppose you might have, and have a fever or signs like a cough or issue respiration, name a physician. They ought to provide you with recommendation on whether or not you ought to be examined, how one can get examined, and how one can search medical therapy with out doubtlessly infecting or exposing others.


Riders are beginning to come again, too. In addition to the return throughout commute hours, Uber has seen an uptick in native tourism, Ms Anderson mentioned. “A lot more people on weekends use Uber to go out to the hiking trails and the beaches in the outskirts of Hong Kong,” she mentioned.

But in some methods, Hong Kong has all the time been an anomaly for Uber. The metropolis has environment friendly subway and bus methods, which have develop into full once more in current weeks. Its extensively used taxi service, which has its personal app with card fee and bilingual options, prices lower than Uber. The metropolis has additionally seen sustained pro-democracy protests.

Those who use Uber are sometimes on the lookout for a extra comfy various to straightforward taxis. Ride sharing shouldn’t be authorized in Hong Kong, and 28 Uber drivers had been arrested in sting operations in 2017 and fined for driving with out limousine permits in 2018.

Uber began a marketing campaign calling for the legalization of trip sharing in Hong Kong after asserting in March that it supposed to maneuver its Asia Pacific headquarters there, arguing that the transfer would create jobs for locals as the town’s economic system recovered from the pandemic.

Despite the regulatory challenges in Hong Kong, Uber has seen steeper ride-hailing declines within the United States. In the months after the February management assembly, Uber’s enterprise in bigger markets all however vanished. By mid-March, its rides had been down 70 p.c in Seattle, and the outlook for the remainder of the United States seemed grim.

In May, the corporate was pressured to drastically reduce prices. It has laid off about 25 p.c of its work drive, offered its bike and scooter enterprise, and pulled its meals supply service from a number of the markets the place it misplaced an excessive amount of cash.

As cuts have continued, Uber’s message of restoration has develop into more and more pressing. After operating ads in April urging riders to remain at dwelling and keep away from the danger of transmitting the virus, the corporate has shifted to encouraging customers to take their “second first ride” — a return to a brand new Uber, one shielded by masks and social distancing guidelines for riders and drivers.

In some cities, reopening is properly underway. But as in Hong Kong, it’s more likely to occur in matches and begins. A now-familiar cycle is taking part in out for Uber in Atlanta, which started to elevate restrictions in mid-May.

“I have not logged in,” mentioned J.D. Harrison, who drives for Uber in Atlanta and runs a cell dog-grooming enterprise. “I have no interest in logging in, just until I can guarantee myself I’m not at risk by doing this type of work.”

Kate Conger reported from Oakland, and Tiffany May from Hong Kong.



Source link Nytimes.com

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