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Uber to require all drivers, passengers to wear masks in fight against coronavirus spread

Starting Monday, Uber (UBER) will require its drivers and passengers to wear face coverings as the coronavirus crisis rages on around the world.

Even as some countries and U.S. states debate relaxing lockdown orders, the ride-hailing giant is implementing new rules to protect both drivers and customers.

The company plans to enforce the new policy using technology that mandates drivers to upload an image of themselves wearing a mask, before they can pick up passengers on the platform. In addition, passengers won’t be allowed to ride up front, and the number of riders will be capped at three.

“Starting on Monday, the next time you open the app things are going to look a little different for both riders and drivers,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told reporters on Wednesday during a webcast. 

Khosrowshahi also announced that Uber had allocated $50 million to provide supplies for driver use, including millions of masks and face coverings and hand sanitizer. Additionally, the company has partnered with Clorox and Unilever to help drivers sanitize vehicles in select cities. 

Uber app icon is seen on the smartphone screen with coronavirus sign in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on March 21, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Amid the pandemic, both Uber and Lyft (LYFT) suspended carpool options to promote social distancing. Uber’s new requirements will be effective in most parts of the world where Uber operates.

The new measures are meant to hold drivers and riders accountable for practicing safety measures as governments begin to lift COVID-19 stay at home orders, according to Sachen Kansal, Uber’s senior director of product management.

“We believe in accountability for all. This is not a problem that can only be solved by the drivers, or only can be solved by the riders, it is everyone's responsibility,” he said. 

Asked whether the “selfie” technology would eventually be required for passengers, Kansal said, “That’s absolutely something we’ll be looking at.”

Before using the platform, Uber riders and drivers must consent that they are in compliance with safety checklists.

For drivers, a “COVID-19 precautions” checklist asks for confirmation that drivers are wearing a cover; that they will not drive if they may have COVID-19 or related symptoms; that they have sanitized their vehicle the same day; and that they wash or sanitize their hands regularly.

Also, UberEats delivery partners must also verify using the new technology that they are wearing a facial covering. 

“We definitely don’t want drivers to be on the road if they are sick,” Kansal said. All  information collected from the driver will be shared with riders, he said.

Uber platform changes effective May 18, 2020 requiring COVID-19 safety precaution verifications

For each ride requested, passengers will be required to agree they will not ride if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, or are symptomatic in any way. Among other things, they will be asked if they’re wearing a face cover and that they’ve wash their hands before riding.

If prospective passengers or drivers are not wearing a mask, despite verifying otherwise, either party can cancel the ride, without penalty. A feedback box indicating the reason for the cancellation is provided. Uber is reserving the right to remove repeat violators from the platform.

In crafting its new policies, Sachen said the company was working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and epidemiologists for both ride sharing and food delivery safety. 

Shares of Uber during midday trading on Wednesday traded around $31.80, down approximately 1.75% from the close of Tuesday’s session. 

Alexis Keenan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance and former litigation attorney. Follow Alexis Keenan on Twitter @alexiskweed.