China’s ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing is facing a shortage of protective gear including garments and face masks as the company expands its service for medical workers in Beijing amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Why it matters: Didi is one of many firms facing protective gear shortages during the coronavirus epidemic, compounding fears about a deepening economic slowdown and financial strain on enterprises.

Details: China’s largest ride-hailing platform Didi is now running low on protective supplies including garments, face masks, and digital thermometers, company president Jean Liu said in a post on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo on Thursday.

  • The company needs supplies “in large volume” to sufficiently protect its drivers, who are now required to wear face masks while in service, Liu said.
  • Didi reminded drivers that they were all required to wear masks before taking orders or else suspend service, in an announcement released Monday on the company’s official Weibo account.
  • The shortages are only affecting certain cities, according to the announcement, but the company declined to offer specifics when contacted by TechNode on Tuesday.
  • In another announcement, Didi said it is offering transport services specifically for medical staff from two local hospitals—You’an and Ditan—in Beijing starting Tuesday by working with the city’s labor union.
  • The expansion to Beijing follows similar measures in Wuhan and Shanghai implemented late last month.

Chinese tech firms ramp up support to battle outbreak

  • On Jan. 26 the platform launched a feature allowing medical staff from three hospitals in Wuhan to hail cabs using its app after the city government banned most vehicles including private cars in the downtown area.
  • The company claimed it has offered free transport services to more than 5,000 medical staff in Wuhan and 4,500 in Shanghai as of Feb. 2. Plans to roll out similar efforts for other cities are underway.
  • Urged by the government, Didi recruited a total of 1,336 drivers in another move, offering free rides to local residents for non-coronavirus related medical emergencies and supply deliveries in Wuhan starting Jan.25.
  • Didi is bearing the cost of the free rides services during the virus outbreak, a company spokesman told TechNode on Tuesday.

Context: In addition to offering free rides to medical workers, Didi has taken a series of measures to help contain the coronavirus outbreak as the impact causes widespread disruption to various business sectors in China.

  • In an announcement released Monday, Didi said a total of 94 car leasing companies and 26 insurers have agreed to extend leases and waive February payments for drivers in 16 cities in Hubei province, an effort coordinated by Didi’s driver services division Xiaoju.
  • It is also looking to scale up the program nationally with 3,000 leasing firms and dozens of insurance companies and financial institutions while offering a daily stipend of RMB 300 ($43) for Didi drivers infected with the virus.
  • Didi suspended ride-hailing services in more than 20 local cities and counties other than Wuhan in a dozen of provinces since Jan. 26, as required by local governments, according to a notice obtained by Chinese media.
  • As of writing, China reported 20,471 confirmed cases and 426 deaths, exceeding the death toll related to the SARS outbreak.

Updated: included information on mask requirements and shortages in Details section.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric vehicles. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com More by Jill Shen

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