Ride-hailing giant Ola said on Friday evening that it is temporarily suspending its pool ride option, called Ola Share, in India in a bid to slow the coronavirus pandemic by encouraging social distancing. [Updated March 21: In a statement on Saturday morning (local time), Uber said it was suspending its shared rides, Uber Pool, in India as well.]
The Indian firm, which operates in several countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., offers Ola Share only in India. "In our efforts to curb the spread of COVID- 19, we are temporarily suspending the ‘Ola Share’ category until further notice,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“The health and safety of our driver-partners and customers are of utmost importance and we have taken several steps in this regard to ensure the highest levels of hygiene are maintained in the vehicles on the platform. The temporary suspension of Ola Share services is an attempt to encourage social distancing for all cases of essential travel for citizens.”
Other ride options on Ola, including Micro, Mini, Prime, Rental and Outstation remain operational. “Our Partner Care teams and Safety Response teams are available 24x7 for any concerns that may arise for driver-partners and customers respectively. We encourage everyone to proactively report any instance that may be symptomatic for us to help action and guide appropriately,” the firm said.
A source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that the suspension would remain in place until New Delhi deems social gathering safe again.
The move comes days after Uber and Lyft moved to enforce similar restrictions in the U.S. In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said, "We are determined to help reduce the spread of coronavirus in the cities we serve. With that in mind, we are suspending the Uber Pool service across India."
Shared rides, also known as pooled rides, are some of the most popular ride options in India.
On Thursday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens to stay at home as much as possible for the next few days to prevent any “explosion” of coronavirus cases.
“For the last few days we have seen that people think we are safe from coronavirus. This is not right. It’s not okay to get complacent,” he said in a nationwide televised appearance.
About 223 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in India so far.
The story was updated on Saturday noon (India time) to add that Uber has also suspended its pool rides.