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As coronavirus spreads, is it still safe to use food delivery services?

In an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, many Canadians are at home for the foreseeable future.

During this time, is it still safe for you to order food using delivery services like Uber Eats?

“Yes, it’s safe to order food,” said Dr. Jeff Kwong, a scientist at Public Health Ontario and associate director of the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto.

“Food delivery staff should be sure to wash hands frequently to minimize the chance of getting infected by COVID or passing on COVID.”

Contactless delivery is “even better,” Kwong told Global News.

Defined as leaving an order at someone’s front door, the option of contactless delivery was first made available in China — where the outbreak originated — by companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Uber Eats announced Monday that it will allow users to request contactless delivery. DoorDash will also allow for consumers to text or call the dasher and request contactless delivery.

According to Reuters, users can ask that their order be dropped at their door in the “delivery notes” section of the app.

If you’re still weary of ordering take-out, Stephen Hoption Cann recommends calling ahead to “ask what the restaurant’s policy is on sick employees.”

“Most are ensuring sick employees do not come to work,” said Hoption Cann, a clinical professor in the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia.

He also believes contactless delivery is a good idea.

“They may be delivering to a lot of people in self-isolation, so this seems like a best practice to reduce COVID-19 transmisison,” he said.

Don’t forget to tip
Amid panic over the coronavirus outbreak, consumers should remember to practice community care, said Suzanne Sicchia, associate professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health & Society and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

This means considering the safety and financial security of the people delivering the food.

“If we can, we should tip well,” Sicchia told Global News. “This is precarious, low-waged employment without benefits and such, and these [are] difficult financial times for many.”

She believes cooking at home is more sustainable, if you’re able to do so.

“Cooking at home with support from family and/or neighbours is preferable, because it’s more sustainable,” Sicchia said.

“It’s the kind of caring for the well-being of others (including those most vulnerable) that ought to be top-of-mind right now for us all.”

Another way you can practice community care is to provide the vulnerable people around you with “care kits,” Sicchia said.

“Bar soap, non-parishable foods and any other essentials folks might need is a powerful way we can all look out for one another.”

Health Canada also recommends that every Canadian has an emergency care kit in the event of quarantine.

Among other things, the agency suggests that Canadians refill prescriptions and have extra stores of things like toilet paper, pet food and feminine hygiene products.

The new coronavirus was first identified in Hubei province, China, in December 2019 and spread rapidly. While the outbreak has begun to level off in China, it seems the virus has found a foothold in a number of countries around the world, and it continues to spread.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.