Public Health Officials

Uber Helps Public Health Officials with COVID-19 Contact Tracing

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No Mask, No Ride. Health status of riders can be traced within hours

Rising COVID-19 pandemic has merely left any sector unaffected, including the transport industry. Recently, to curb its spread, Ridesharing giant Uber Technologies has quietly launched a service that offers public health officials quick access to data on drivers and riders that might have come into contact with a COVID-19-infected person.

The contact tracing service will be provided for free and is reportedly being introduced to public health officials in all countries where Uber operates, according to Reuters. Company officials told Reuters information of either a driver or passenger can be accessed in a few hours.

The service could help burnish the image of the ride-hailing giant, which recently launched a new ad campaign spotlighting its “No Mask, No Ride” policy in the United States.

Now being promoted to government health officials in all the countries where it operates, the service provides health departments with data about who used Uber’s services and when and allows health agencies to urge affected users into quarantine. The information can be accessed in just a “few hours” since the company considers COVID-19 an emergency.

As per the health officials and experts, Ride-hailing data could serve an important role in identifying a larger set of people that aren’t part of the direct social circle of an infected individual.

“This data could be potentially life-saving in cities where many people use those services,” said Mieka Smart, an epidemiology professor at Michigan State University.

The report states that Uber has observed a surge in contact tracing requests from countries that had been applauded for their “initial success” in containing the virus including Australia and New Zealand.

Dozens of U.S. states in recent weeks began hiring thousands of workers to interview infected patients, identify people they have been in contact with and then order those individuals to isolate. Ride-hailing data could play an important role in that effort, health officials and experts said, because it identifies a larger set of people outside the direct social circle of an infected individual.

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