One of the country’s taxi booking apps is introducing a new service for pick-ups and drop-offs to customers in an effort to maintain social distancing to help people avoid coronavirus.
Lynk plans to offer the service from Monday, using the company's nationwide fleet of 2,000 taxi drivers, to retailers and other companies that provide a click-and-collect service. The company's software will allow it to tie up with any company that offers an online delivery service.
The service can be fully contactless so that drivers can pick up groceries and other goods from shops and bring the goods to customers without person-to-person contacts.
"What it means is that the consumer at home doesn't need to go to the store and there is no particular contact. Everything will be done on credit card," said Noel Ebbs, chief executive of Lynk.
“The delivery guy will ring the doorbell, step back and the customer collects the groceries from their doorstep. There is no person-to-person contact and the two-metre distance will be maintained at all times.”
Lynk, which typically records about 2.5 million taxi trips in a normal year, has seen a slump of about 50 per cent in business, so the new delivery service is seen as a way of increasing work for idle taxi drivers.
Mr Ebbs said the company has already seen a large amount of business coming from customers concerned about social contact as the number of Covid-19 infections increases.
Free Now, the country's largest online taxi-booking app, was looking at new ways of adapting its fleet of 14,000 taxi drivers to "meet the Covid-19 challenge across Ireland. "
"We are engaging with several large retailers to explore mechanisms to support the distribution of vital food, produce and supplies to vulnerable groups and are already working with the HSE as an approved transport supplier to aid the critical work of frontline healthcare staff," said Alan Fox, general manager of Free Now in Ireland and the UK.
Lynk will be in a position to continue providing its increased service should the Government introduce more severe restrictions on freedom of movement such as self-quarantining or “cocooning” for the elderly “without violating any rules coming down the road”, said Mr Ebbs.
The service is targeted at people “who are afraid to leave their homes, those who cannot leave their homes and those who simply don’t want to leave for reasons of social distancing”, he said.
“Far and away the largest group that we are undertaking journeys for today are people calling a taxi to go to a store to collect a delivery,” he said.
“It is an elderly mum who doesn’t want to leave the house so we can see straight away, even from our current bookings, that this is something that is badly needed.”
To protect drivers, Lynk has ordered 4,500 protective masks and is encouraging drivers to use latex gloves that, along with the cars, can be regularly cleaned with kitchen disinfectant.