By Tina Bellon
(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc Tuesday began suspending shared rides on their ride-hailing platforms in the United States and Canada to limit the spread of the 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.
“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.
A spokesman said similar steps outside the two countries would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Regular rides and the company’s food delivery platform Uber Eats remain available, but Uber said it was in contact with local authorities to adjust operations as needed.
North America provides the bulk of Uber’s revenue, but pooled rides make up only a small share of all bookings, data by U.S. cities showed.
Lyft, Uber’s smaller competitor operating only in the United States and Canada, said in a statement on Tuesday that it was also suspending all shared rides.
“The health and safety of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we’re dedicated to doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the company said.
A larger share of Lyft’s rides are shared compared to Uber’s, but still make up less than a third of all trips, city data showed.
The new coronavirus that causes respiratory illness has spread quickly throughout the United States, killing more than 80 people and infecting more than 4,700.
The federal government has urged people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Some state and local authorities have closed bars, restaurants and other venues to try and slow the spread of the virus.
Beginning on Tuesday, Uber users in the U.S. and Canada will also see a message reminding them to consider if the ride they plan to book is essential and to “travel only when necessary,” images provided by Uber showed.
Riders are also being asked to consider the safety of their drivers by washing their hands before and after a ride, sitting in the back seat and rolling down the window to improve ventilation.
Uber has previously said it will compensate drivers and delivery people diagnosed with coronavirus or placed in quarantine by health officials for up to 14 days.
Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; editing by Richard Pullin and Grant McCool