Food delivery unions and workers’ associations across Taiwan have been calling for drivers to be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said that the Taipei City Government has submitted a proposal to the central government for food delivery workers to receive vaccine priority.
However, these workers are not classified as “front-line” on the Central Epidemic Command Center’s priority vaccine program.
During the nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert, delivery workers are spending a lot of time going in and out of restaurants and other food and beverage outlets, which are high-risk areas for infection. They are performing a valuable service, helping people reduce the time they spend outdoors, delivering fresh food and daily necessities, but this means that they are in contact with large numbers of people.
Some county and municipal governments — Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Pingtung — have introduced regulations that require large apartment and office blocks to provide an area for food deliveries to be dropped off on the ground floor or in a lounge area to reduce person-to-person contact.
However, Taipei, New Taipei City and other areas with relatively high rates of infection have yet to implement such measures. Additionally, many food delivery platforms inform users that they are operating “contactless delivery,” although 60 percent of people still receive deliveries face-to-face, and some delivery platforms still accept cash payments.
These factors place delivery workers at greater risk.
An additional problem is that there is a shortage of alcohol hand sanitizer, forcing many drivers to ration declining stocks of sanitizer they obtained last year.
Anyone who tries to purchase hand sanitizer on the open market will need to try their luck at roughly 10 stores to get their hands on just one small bottle.
Furthermore, demand for sanitizer has increased so that, for a food delivery driver, one small bottle can be expected to last for just two or three days — utterly inadequate in the circumstances.
Food delivery orders have rocketed, which suggests that delivery drivers are in contact with more people. A driver will, on average, complete 50 deliveries in 10 hours, or about 100 person-to-person contacts per day. If a delivery person is confirmed as having contracted COVID-19, tracing their movements over the previous 14 days will likely present health officials with 1,000 to 1,500 “contacts” who might have been infected.
This presents a huge risk to society as we battle to bring the virus under control.
I have delivered food to high-risk areas and entered stores where an employee had contracted the virus. Fortunately, twice-monthly screenings have so far turned up negative.
It is akin to sending soldiers into battle unarmed as we go about our work, being in direct contact with countless individuals daily without the proper equipment or without having been inoculated.
It is high time that the central government prioritizes food delivery drivers to receive one of the available vaccines.
Patrick Su is a spokesperson for the National Delivery Union.
Translated by Edward Jones
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