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

OAKLAND, Calif. — In late February, Uber executives had been set to assemble in San Francisco to type enterprise plans for the yr because the coronavirus steadily unfold past China. Whereas some executives who had been initially invited had been instructed to remain residence, the remaining few huddled at Uber’s headquarters to make plans for the inevitable pandemic.Considered 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.“Individuals had been monitoring what the speed of the virus unfold was, and we noticed that translate right into a drop in journeys fairly early on,” Ms. Anderson recalled in an interview. “It grew to become apparent that this was not going to be contained.”Months later, Uber is dealing with its biggest disaster: retaining the ride-hailing enterprise afloat when many individuals are nonetheless staying residence. Coronavirus totals in the USA, Uber’s highest-revenue market, proceed to develop, difficult cities and native companies which might be attempting to reopen. And rides, not surprisingly, are solely haltingly returning to a semblance of what they had been.Hong Kong, then again, has recovered from the pandemic quicker than most different cities the place Uber operates. The outbreak has been much less extreme there than in the USA, and lots of commuters have gone again to work. Though Uber’s enterprise in Hong Kong is small and doesn’t generate a lot income, the foothold gave the corporate a preview of how shortly 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 to be.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 spanking new virus security options, like facial recognition software program to detect whether or not drivers had been sporting masks, earlier than they had been launched globally.The town started lifting restrictions in February, however a second wave of instances in March brought about one other dip in rides — an indication of the unsteady restoration that Uber is prone to see in the USA.“If the world seemed like Hong Kong, we might be in nice form,” Uber’s chief govt, Dara Khosrowshahi, mentioned throughout a March name with monetary analysts. On the peak 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, they’d begun to recuperate 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 have 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. However these states are beginning to see virus numbers spike, and Uber’s expertise in Hong Kong suggests downturn in enterprise is prone to observe.“It’s been very useful for us having a presence right here,” Ms. Anderson mentioned of Hong Kong. “It’s given us just a few extra weeks to grasp what this may appear to be.” She added, “There are some issues which might be going to carry globally true, and a few issues that basically want regional tailoring.”Some security measures, like offering sanitizing merchandise to drivers, grew to become a part of Uber’s international plans. After Hong Kong commuters returned to Uber extra shortly than informal riders, the corporate elevated its promotion of its commuting companies.One security measure which may show troublesome to duplicate in some elements of the USA is the acceptance of masks. In Hong Kong, sporting a masks is a generally accepted approach to keep away from the unfold of a virus. It made Hong Kong an excellent place for Uber to check its masks necessities and mask-detection software program earlier than rolling them out in the USA.In Might, Uber started to require masks for drivers and passengers in the USA, however the easy act of asking individuals to placed on a masks has change into contentious. In Australia, public well being officers didn’t suggest masks, so Uber didn’t require them there.Due to 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 frightened about catching the coronavirus and infecting his spouse and toddler son. Now he picks up for or 5 passengers a day. He lastly felt snug reopening his Uber app after places of work reopened, whereas some social distancing laws and border closures remained in impact.

Up to date June 30, 2020

What are the signs of coronavirus?
Frequent signs embody fever, a dry cough, fatigue and problem respiration or shortness of breath. A few of these signs overlap with these of the flu, making detection troublesome, however runny noses and stuffy sinuses are much less frequent. The C.D.C. has additionally added chills, muscle ache, sore throat, headache and a brand new lack of the sense of style or scent as signs to look out for. Most individuals fall sick 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 sporting a masks?
A commentary revealed this month on the web site of the British Journal of Sports activities Medication factors out that protecting your face throughout train “comes with problems with potential respiration restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing advantages versus doable antagonistic occasions.” Masks do alter train, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Train, a nonprofit group that funds train analysis and certifies health professionals. “In my private expertise,” he says, “coronary heart charges are increased on the similar relative depth if you put on a masks.” Some individuals additionally may expertise lightheadedness throughout acquainted exercises whereas masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of train science on the College of New Mexico.

I’ve heard a couple of therapy referred to as dexamethasone. Does it work?
The steroid, dexamethasone, is the primary therapy proven to scale back mortality in severely sick sufferers, in response to scientists in Britain. The drug seems to scale back irritation brought on by the immune system, defending the tissues. Within the examine, dexamethasone diminished deaths of sufferers on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of sufferers on oxygen by one-fifth.

What’s pandemic paid depart?
The coronavirus emergency aid bundle provides many American employees paid depart if they should take day without work due to the virus. It provides certified employees two weeks of paid sick depart if they’re sick, quarantined or searching for prognosis or preventive take care of coronavirus, or if they’re caring for sick members of the family. It provides 12 weeks of paid depart to individuals caring for kids whose colleges are closed or whose little one care supplier is unavailable due to the coronavirus. It’s the first time the USA has had widespread federally mandated paid depart, and consists of individuals who don’t sometimes get such advantages, like part-time and gig financial system employees. However the measure excludes a minimum of half of private-sector employees, together with these on the nation’s largest employers, and provides small employers important leeway to disclaim depart.

Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 occur?
To this point, the proof appears to point out it does. A broadly 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. Lately, a high knowledgeable on the World Well being Group said that transmission of the coronavirus by individuals who didn’t have signs was “very uncommon,” however she later walked again that assertion.

What’s the chance of catching coronavirus from a floor?
Touching contaminated objects after which infecting ourselves with the germs is just not sometimes how the virus spreads. However it could actually occur. Numerous 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, places of work and hospitals. However an extended chain of occasions has to occur for the illness to unfold that manner. One of the best ways to guard 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 sporting masks.

How does blood sort affect coronavirus?
A examine 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 Kind A blood was linked to a 50 p.c improve within the chance affected person would wish to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, in response to the brand new examine.

How many individuals have misplaced their jobs resulting from coronavirus within the U.S.?
The unemployment price fell to 13.three p.c in Might, the Labor Division mentioned on June 5, an surprising enchancment within the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded quicker 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 very best because the authorities started retaining official statistics after World Warfare II. However 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 may take to guard your self. Most vital: Wash your palms usually, and cease touching your face. If doable, select a window seat. A examine from Emory College discovered that in flu season, the most secure place to take a seat on a airplane is by a window, as individuals sitting in window seats had much less contact with probably sick individuals. Disinfect exhausting surfaces. Once you get to your seat and your palms are clear, use disinfecting wipes to scrub the exhausting surfaces at your seat like the top and arm relaxation, the seatbelt buckle, the distant, display screen, seat again pocket and the tray desk. If the seat is difficult and nonporous or leather-based or pleather, you may wipe that down, too. (Utilizing wipes on upholstered seats may result in a moist seat and spreading of germs relatively than killing them.)

What ought to I do if I really feel sick?
Should you’ve been uncovered to the coronavirus or assume you’ve, and have a fever or signs like a cough or problem respiration, name a health care provider. They need to provide you with recommendation on whether or not you ought to be examined, find out how to get examined, and find out how to search medical therapy with out probably infecting or exposing others.

Riders are beginning to come again, too. Along with the return throughout commute hours, Uber has seen an uptick in native tourism, Ms Anderson mentioned. “Much more individuals on weekends use Uber to exit to the mountain climbing trails and the seashores within the outskirts of Hong Kong,” she mentioned.However in some methods, Hong Kong has at all times been an anomaly for Uber. The town has environment friendly subway and bus methods, which have change into full once more in current weeks. Its broadly used taxi service, which has its personal app with card cost and bilingual options, prices lower than Uber. The town has additionally seen sustained pro-democracy protests.Those that use Uber are sometimes on the lookout for a extra snug various to plain taxis. Experience sharing is just not 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 journey sharing in Hong Kong after saying in March that it meant to maneuver its Asia Pacific headquarters there, arguing that the transfer would create jobs for locals as town’s financial system recovered from the pandemic.Regardless of the regulatory challenges in Hong Kong, Uber has seen steeper ride-hailing declines in the USA. Within 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 USA seemed grim.In Might, the corporate was compelled to drastically lower 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 few of the markets the place it misplaced an excessive amount of cash.As cuts have continued, Uber’s message of restoration has change into more and more pressing. After operating ads in April urging riders to remain at residence and keep away from the chance of transmitting the virus, the corporate has shifted to encouraging shoppers to take their “second first journey” — a return to a brand new Uber, one shielded by masks and social distancing guidelines for riders and drivers.In some cities, reopening is effectively underway. However as in Hong Kong, it’s prone to occur in suits and begins. A now-familiar cycle is enjoying out for Uber in Atlanta, which started to elevate restrictions in mid-Might.“I’ve not logged in,” mentioned J.D. Harrison, who drives for Uber in Atlanta and runs a cell dog-grooming enterprise. “I’ve little interest in logging in, simply till I can assure myself I’m not in danger by doing the sort of work.”Kate Conger reported from Oakland, and Tiffany Might from Hong Kong.

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