Letter to the Editor: An impassioned plea from the food delivery industry — please allow us to deliver at all times

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 31): The coronavirus has been devastating to the food deliveries business.

The Movement Control Order (MCO) has diminished the income of restaurateurs, petty traders, and gig workers in various industries.

Let’s face it: food is crucial during the MCO. And disruptions to the food supply chain have been catastrophic.

The supply chain — restaurants, supermarkets, food delivery and grocery services — can keep the economy going, but at a limited capacity.

We strongly feel that there is no clear case or evidence of contamination through food delivery; in fact, there is a higher risk of contracting the virus from grocery shopping.

Delivery risks, if any, would be from contact with the delivery rider.

However, there is now contactless delivery, while F&B establishments have best practices in food handling.

Meanwhile, food packaging can either be disinfected or discarded, just like grocery bags or other disposables.

Contrary to public opinion, food delivery workers lose revenue during Covid-19, due to restricted opening hours for eateries, limited riders, as well as closures of outlets and roads.

Many F&B establishments are also struggling to adapt to the takeaway/delivery-only method while delivery people operate at reduced capacity.

Food delivery workers support local businesses and hence, the economy.

They provide revenue for F&B outlets, hawkers, petty traders and riders in the gig economy, many of whom are from the B40 segment.

Food delivery companies are the few employers during the MCO that still stimulate the economy by providing employment and helping small traders, hawkers and businesses in F&B to stay alive.

The government needs to ensure the security of companies within the essential services so that these businesses can continue to support the economy.

These businesses provide employment for many B40s in the following areas:

  • Food delivery provides income for riders who are gig workers
  • Restaurants and hawkers sell food made from ingredients and fresh produce purchased from farmers and fishermen
  • Restaurants employ mostly from the B40 group

The government should also allow food deliverers to continue services beyond 8pm.

While we support the government’s efforts to contain the virus, we must consider the consequences of limited operating hours:

  • The 8am-8pm time slot triggers panic buying in supermarkets and eateries, forcing more people in crowded spaces and higher risks of infections
  • Food delivery services have a limited number of workers. Frontliners working beyond 8pm will also have problems ordering food, leading to reduced income for gig workers, riders and restaurant staff in food delivery services.
  • If the MCO’s intent is to limit movement, then adhere to the no dine-ins and adopt no takeaways for eateries, therefore only food delivery is allowed after 8pm. This is China’s approach where F&B outlets were allowed to operate until 12am.
  • Petty traders are impacted by the limited hours, so there is a need to support these businesses to survive.

While we appreciate the government’s efforts to provide the stimulus aid, the cash injection is unsustainable.

We need to support the local hawker/neighbourhood stalls. Here, we humbly propose the following solutions:

  • Set time slots for takeaways and pickup services between 8am and 8pm in MCO Phase 2
  • Allow F&B outlets to operate until 11pm to cater for the late-night crowd and workers. Allow food delivery services, but NO takeaways and pickup
  • The much-better food delivery option promotes social distancing where customers can opt for contactless delivery while restaurants and café adopt the World Health Organization (WHO) safety and hygiene guidelines, and
  • Food/grocery delivery could decrease people movement, ensuring that the food industry, at least, remain as drivers for employment and the economy.

In conclusion, the big question is, are food deliveries safe? We referenced two experts:

  • Prof Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:

    “…by having home delivery, all risks are eliminated. By comparison, coronavirus does not ‘breed’ outside the body so by the time it is delivered, any chance of infectivity is already lower because the virus starts to lose its infectivity as soon as it leaves the infected person…”

    “This means that the risk of home delivery is “very small” compared with visiting supermarkets.”
     

  • Dr James Gill, honorary clinical lecturer of Warwick Medical School:

    “…People could look to use food delivery services as a way to reduce their need visit supermarkets. (Delivery) highlights the importance of the imposed lock down, as social isolation and the restriction of movement is the strongest defence that the general public has against possible COVID-19 infections.

    “Should people be concerned about coronavirus exposure from groceries delivered directly to their homes? The fight against this pandemic is driven by data that is rapidly evolving and updated. In all likelihood, the risk of exposure from food delivery is less than risks of exposure to supermarket and queues at checkouts.

    “Food deliveries, whether from friends/relatives or supermarket courier will carry a lower risk of exposure. Most people have bleach and cloth to wipe over home deliveries, effectively eliminating risk.”

This letter represents the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the view of theedgemarkets.com. 

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