The government is yet to allow services of the ride-sharing services to resume in Bangladesh, even though public transport started operating again in a limited manner from Sunday amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Services of these apps will remain suspended until further notice, said an order issued by the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).
BRTA sent the order to the authorized ride-sharing companies, including Pathao and Uber, on Saturday evening.
Ahmed Fahad, vice-president of product at Pathao, confirmed receiving the government order when reached for comment.
After the novel coronavirus made its way into the country, the government on March 26 had suspended the movement of all types of public transports as well as the app-based ride-sharing services like Uber and Pathao in a bid to curb the disease’s transmission.
Officials of these companies said they are not sure when they will be allowed to resume their ride-sharing services. However, they have urged the authorities to let them resume their services as technical guidelines of the Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS) allows them to operate by following its 11 directives.
Acting BRTA Chairman Yusuf Ali Molla confirmed on Sunday afternoon that they were yet to finalize when the ride-sharing transport services should resume.
“We are observing the overall situation and we will discuss soon with the ride-sharing operators before taking the decision,” he said.
There are more than 20 app-based ride-sharing services in the country, according to various sources. Among them, 12 have received BRTA’s approval for operating.
What Pathao and Uber say
Pathao and Uber, the two largest such platforms in Bangladesh, have already prepared to resume their ride-sharing services by taking all necessary safety measures.
Pathao in a statement said that with the Pathao app commute services at a halt since the past two months, they have observed that ride-sharing services have already resumed by way of offline trips.
“And as such, ride-sharing users are denied access to safe, secure rides with appropriate health measures in place, and are having to turn to more unsafe options like offline trips or to other forms of public transportation where social distancing cannot be properly maintained.
“Therefore, in the greater interest of the health, safety, and convenience of commuters, we urge the BRTA to allow the resumption of Pathao's ride-sharing services on June 1, in line with its instructions for other forms of public transportation.”
Pathao, the country’s largest ride-sharing company, started its journey in December 2016, and has almost 300,000 registered riders working with them.
Meanwhile, US-based multinational ride-hailing company Uber started operating in Bangladesh in November 2016.
To help contain the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and to set the highest safety standards in these challenging times, Uber has already spearheaded the formation of a Transport Safety Alliance (TSA) in partnership with DBL Pharma, Zantrik, Dettol (Reckitt Benckiser) and Fresh Tissue.
TSA will generate safety awareness amongst consumers, and equip drivers with necessary health and safety supplies to ensure safer rides.
Uber in a statement on Sunday also said: “Over the past two months, Uber has been urging riders and drivers to stay at home to help contain the spread of Covid-19. Now, as cities all over the world start to open, we remain committed to providing safe and convenient transport.
“As we resume services in all the countries we operate in, we have instituted safety measures such as distributing PPEs to drivers, building multiple layers of accountability in our app, including technology-led checks on mask use, safety checklists, limiting the number of passengers per vehicle and restricting geographies and times of operation as per relevant government guidelines.”
It added: “Our goal is to Move Bangladesh Forward by providing a safe experience for riders; and supporting driver partners with earning opportunities.
“Safety is our top priority… We hope to immediately engage with authorities to help our communities on the path to recovery.”