SINGAPORE: Ride-hailing firm Grab was forced to close one of its offices on Wednesday (Apr 8) after a large number of drivers turned up to collect food delivery gear, on the second day of “circuit breaker” measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed long queues outside the operator’s premises at Midview City on Sin Ming Lane, with police officers stationed outside the entrance.
Responding to queries from the media, the police said they received a call for assistance at about 11.10am on Wednesday.
"The involved parties were advised to maintain peace and adhere to safe distancing measures. They complied and no further police assistance was required," said a police spokesperson.
“Due to the crowd at our Grab Driver Centre, we regret to inform that the centre is closed to protect your wellbeing and comply with safe distancing measures,” Grab said in a message sent out to drivers, seen by CNA.
“Please do not make your way to the Grab Driver Centre today to prevent overcrowding,” the firm added, apologising for the inconvenience caused.
Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan had announced late last month that taxi and private-hire car drivers would be allowed to make grocery and food deliveries, amid higher demand for such services and a decline in ridership for such point-to-point transportation options.
In February Grab said it had seen a 20 per cent increase in food orders following the emergence of COVID-19.
Taxi and private-hire drivers however have reported that their incomes have dropped by more than 30 per cent following reduced demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Since September last year, Singapore-based Grab has been conducting a trial with the Land Transport Authority to allow its drivers to provide such on-demand parcel and food delivery services.
The firm noted on Wednesday that “thousands” had signed up for the programme.
READ: COVID-19: More than 7,000 breaches of elevated safe-distancing measures on Day 1 of 'circuit breaker'
In a response to media queries, a Grab spokesperson said “many applicants had turned up at the Grab Driver Centre at Sin Ming today to collect their GrabFood delivery gear, thus forming a queue at our premises”.
The spokesperson noted “a proportion of them” had be turned away to ensure the safety of all, as well as to keep in line with the Government’s new “circuit breaker” measures, introduced to enforce safe-distancing to limit the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We would like to take this opportunity to assure our partners that they will be able to apply for an appointment slot to collect their delivery gear soon. This will ensure a seamless experience, and we can better support their needs,” she said.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and would like to assure our partners and the wider community that we take all necessary precautions to look after their safety and wellbeing.”