Inside the UAE food delivery business amid the coronavirus lockdown

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Restaurants in the UAE may be shut to the public as the country remains in lockdown, but food delivery services are still up and running, bringing hot meals to people’s doors. Al Arabiya English was given a look inside iKcon, a dark kitchen operator with around 35 brands including The Vietnamese Sandwich Co. and Keto Counter.

UAE authorities closed all restaurants for entry as the new coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has continued to spread, with 2,076 infections and 11 deaths reported so far. However, restaurants are permitted to deliver food provided they abide by social distancing and sanitation rules.

“iKcon has instituted various additional measures to ensure the continuity of safety for all while the COVID-19 pandemic is underway,” said Country Operations Manager Calon McCutcheon.

In particular, the company has added an additional layer of protective plastic packaging for all deliveries to minimize the chance of cross-contamination.

Measures like these improve the level of contactless delivery, a system which delivery apps such as Uber Eats, Zomato, and Talabat previously implemented as a precautionary measure.

“All bike riders and other individuals are no longer allowed to enter our premise and kept separate from our staff to prevent COVID-19 infections,” McCutcheon added.

Travel ban implications

With Dubai extending its lockdown to 24-hours for two weeks, and the metro closed, staff have had a harder time getting to the kitchen safely, something which iKcon has sought to solve with additional precautions.

“We procured masks, two sets of daily gloves, and private transportation when necessary for our staff’s commute. The temperature of each team member is taken twice a day and no one enters our facilities unchecked,” McCutcheon explained.

The UAE has also instituted various fines for those that do not abide by new quarantine rules, including a 2000 dirham ($545) fine for leaving the house for reasons unrelated to work or for necessity, and a 1,000 dirham fine for not wearing a face mask in closed spaces.

The UAE Ministry of Health has since advised that everyone should wear a mask when in public for safety and practice good social distancing measures to control the spread of the virus.

Individuals who work in vital sectors are exempt from the curfew and can obtain a letter from their employer stating their movement to and from work.

Those working in some sectors are allowed to commute to work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Those sectors include: banking, finance, and currency exchange sectors, maintenance services, laundry services (for select outlets), and social welfare services.

Read more:

Coronavirus: UAE restaurants told to close, delivery only

Coronavirus: Delivery apps urge UAE customers to go for ‘contactless delivery’

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