Uber Suspends Shared Rides in US and Canada Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Uber has temporarily suspended shared rides in the United States and Canada. Reuters reported Tuesday that the rideshare company began suspending pooled rides to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease spread by the novel coronavirus.

The pooled option, which allows riders to book trips at lower prices by sharing the car with up to three other passengers traveling in the same direction, has been disabled for users opening the apps in the U.S. and Canada. "Our goal is to help flatten the curve on community spread in the cities we serve," senior vice president Uber Rides and Platform Andrew Macdonald said in a statement. On a similar note, a spokesman said similar steps outside the U.S. and Canada would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Users can still hail regular solo rides in the Uber app. The company's food delivery platform Uber Eats will also remain available. Uber said it was in contact with local authorities to adjust operations as needed.

Data by U.S. cities showed that North America provides the bulk of Uber's revenue, but pooled rides make up only a small share of all bookings, Reuters reports.

It is unclear if Lyft, Uber's smaller competitor, will enact similar measures.

Starting Tuesday, Uber users will also see a message reminding them to consider if the ride they plan on booking is essential as well as a message warning them to "travel only when necessary," Uber said. Riders are also being asked to consider their driver's safety by taking measures like washing their hands before and after a ride, sitting in the back seat and rolling down the window to improve ventilation.

The coronavirus has spread quickly throughout the United States, killing at least 83 people as of Monday and infecting more than 4,600 Americans. Globally, the coronavirus has so far killed more than 7,000 and infected more than 173,000 people. President Donald Trump urged people in the United States to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and called for closing of bars, restaurants and other venues in states where local virus transmission exists. Some state and local authorities independently imposed mandatory restrictions on non-essential businesses, like bars and restaurants.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it is suspending shipments of non-essential items to its warehouses as the pandemic worsens. Business Insider reported that the company will be prioritizing medical supplies, household staples and other high-demand products for the global pandemic until April 5 following a significant surge in orders during the recommended social-distancing period for many.

What that means is that Amazon is blocking sellers from shipping products deemed non-essential to its warehouses for the next few weeks. The online retailer sent out an email to its vendors saying it would only accept "high-demand products" due to the coronavirus. Amazon allows third-party sellers to use its storage and delivery network for a fulfillment fee; users of that service will no longer be able to ship non-essential products to Amazon.

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Thankfully, customers will still be able to order those products from Amazon for as long as they remain in the warehouses. However, if the product they are looking for sells out by April 5 they will have to wait.

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