With more people choosing to stay at home amid the rising fear of the fast-spreading COVID-19, delivery apps are seeing a surge in the number of daily orders.
But at the same time, many delivery persons are increasingly worried, as food deliveries, in particular, often require direct contact with customers.
“It will be a road to disaster if delivery persons get infected with the coronavirus,” an anonymous delivery person said in the open chatroom of a labor union on mobile messenger KakaoTalk.
“If there are any confirmed cases among delivery persons, we could become a target, and will be blamed (for spreading the virus), like the Shincheonji believers,” said Park Jung-hoon, the head of Rider Union, a delivery workers’ labor union. He was referring to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, whose congregation was responsible for spreading the epidemic to more than half of the confirmed cases in the country.
Similar concerns and also worries about their own health were shared among the delivery persons who visit doorsteps to hand over ordered goods.
Reflecting the concerns, Rider Union issued a statement on Sunday calling on all delivery service providers to take steps to ensure the safety of their workforce and protect their labor rights.
“All delivery service providers should take measures so that workers can deliver goods to the customers without contacting them,” the statement read.
“They should inform customers and its clients that the delivery will be done without contact, and make sure all orders are prepaid.”
The labor union also called for the companies to provide face masks and hand sanitizers, and guarantee paid leaves for those quarantined.
“We find it rewarding to do our work by delivering orders for people who find it hard to go outside, and also for the struggling shopkeepers. Therefore, we call for the government, delivery platforms and businesses to come up with safety measures for delivery workers.”
Aware of the gravity of the epidemic, some delivery service companies and delivery app platforms are providing their staff with protective gear and presenting preventive guidelines.
Baemin Riders said it has been distributing face masks and hand sanitizers to all of its 2,300 delivery workers since the first confirmed case in January. It also said it will announce safety guidelines for workers.
Yogiyo, a food delivery app that runs its own delivery service in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, said it is also providing its delivery workers with protective gear and hand sanitizers.
Mesh Korea, the operator of food delivery service Vroong, said it has sterilized the equipment of all of its delivery workers, including the delivery case and the motorcycle with high pressure cleaning machines, and will conduct it at least once a week.
Recognizing the situation as a national disaster, the company said it will also provide two weeks’ worth of income for Vroong riders -- delivery persons -- if they are quarantined in nation-designated medical facilities.
Barogo, a Seoul-based motorcycle delivery startup, said it will also start distributing face masks to its riders working in Daegu and surrounding regions.
Other retailing businesses and e-commerce platforms are also raising their guard, advising their delivery persons and customers to minimize face-to-face contact.
Coupang, an e-commerce platform giant here, has begun the “untact” delivery service, where the deliverers leave the goods in front of the door, to reduce contact with customers.
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com