Shippers in Ho Chi Minh City are allowed to take COVID-19 self tests to help them avoid large gatherings while meeting consumption demand.
|Ride-hailers have pulled out all the stops to get operations going again. Photo: Le Toan |
Grab last week started distributing free COVID-19 antigen test kits to its driver-partners in Ho Chi Minh City. Thus, drivers can now take COVID-19 self tests at home and share the results with Grab before providing delivery services. The move follows the announcement of the local authorities to let shippers take self tests to reduce overload at testing points.
A representative of Grab lauded the news, saying it would help tech-based platforms to provide delivery services more smoothly especially when the city relaxes social distancing measures. Within three days, the company distributed one-third of the rapid test kits provided by the Department of Health to its driver-partners.
Likewise, Be Group has sent a notice to its shippers in the city, directing them to go to district-level collection points to pick up their free test kits. The ride-hailer has also provided instructions for shippers and prepared personnel to update the test results to the system of the local Department of Information and Communications in accordance with the guidelines of the local Department of Industry and Trade.
According to Nguyen Hoang Trung, co-founder cum CEO of one-hour delivery e-commerce startup Loship, training shippers to use COVID-19 self test is the most effective solution in the current circumstances. Not only is it more convenient and faster as shippers do not have to queue up at testing sites, it also takes some pressure off the country’s hospital system and reduces the risk of infection. Also, by self testing every three days, shippers will feel more conscious and responsible in protecting the health of themselves, their families, customers, and the community.
However, Trung added that some difficulties with the solution need to be addressed. Shippers are not experienced at collecting test samples which could increase mistakes. The legitimacy of the tests can also be difficult to verify, and with the current data entry and verification process there can be delays in the return of test results.
“Still, we believe that these difficulties are only immediate. As shippers gradually get used to self testing, the whole process will get faster. In fact, after a week of self testing, the accuracy of our shippers has increased substantially and they all feel comfortable with this new testing method,” he stressed.
In the long term, making home testing accessible, accurate, and fast is a critical step towards curbing infections and helping everyone resume normal activities safely. Late last month Ho Chi Minh City began to lift its COVID-19 restrictions, enabling greater business and social activities after four months of social distancing. With more lax delivery regulations, more shippers are operating to provide delivery services.
Meanwhile, a Gojek representative said that the number of eligible shippers for operation on its app has increased significantly since the self test regulation came into effect. Thanks to the larger fleet of shippers, Gojek could complete far more orders during the past days.
Each driver uses a unique QR code to receive their test kits at the designated time frame and location. After receiving the kit, they can take the test on the spot under the guidance and supervision of the staff. “On average, about 10-15 driver partners go through a test point in an hour,” the Gojek representative added.
However, this solution also poses cost concerns for delivery apps tasked with securing test kits for their shippers. Trung from Loship said that the company is currently in discussions with potential COVID-19 test kit suppliers. The company will be handing out test kits to shippers in the coming days and will have a policy to offset the cost burden on shippers.
“In the long run, we think it would be better if rapid test results were accepted for a longer period of time as shippers always comply with 5K regulation and have been vaccinated with at least one dose. Some have even been fully vaccinated,” Trung said. “Testing every three days may no longer be appropriate. Prolonging the validity of rapid test results will provide more comfort for shippers and ease burdens on businesses while still allowing the government to control the risk of infections across the community.”