China’s top food delivery app has started offering cardboard “shields” to prevent the spread of coronavirus when its customers dine in crowded spaces.
Meituan Dianping has started distributing the protective covers through select restaurant chains in parts of Beijing and Shanghai.
The company says customers will be able to unpack the cardboard to create a 20-inch “independent space” that covers three sides of their dish when placed in front of the user.
Meituan claims the shield can “effectively block” infectious droplets from customers when they consume food in an office cafeteria and hospital canteens.
The company says it will expand its offering to Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, to help medical staff working at hospitals.
Since the start of the year Meituan has also offered a range of services aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus including the launch of its “contactless delivery” service.
The app allowed its users to have their food delivered to a designated area without having to interact with the delivery rider in person.
Research by investment bank UBS suggests that there has been an increase in meal delivery demand as consumers spend more time at home either in self-isolation or in quarantine.
The analysis however warns the demand can spiral if consumers develop concerns around contact with food preparation or riders.
Meituan has ordered its riders to disinfect their delivery boxes twice a day, as well have their body temperature taken to monitor their health.
The firm has also capitalised on the surge in demand for groceries caused by the temporary closure of restaurants during the Chinese New Year with autonomous delivery vehicles.
The company’s “Space-pod” delivered fresh groceries for residential communities in northeast Beijing.
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