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Maharashtra lockdown: E-commerce, food delivery cos seek more clarity

In the “Break the chain” order released by the Maharashtra government on Sunday, beginning April 10, e-commerce and food delivery services personnel have been asked to get vaccinated in accordance with the Central government rules.

E-commerce and food delivery firms are in talks with the Maharashtra government to gain more clarity on the guidelines for their delivery personnel, which require them to either carry proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

In the “Break the chain” order released by the Maharashtra government on Sunday, beginning April 10, e-commerce and food delivery services personnel have been asked to get vaccinated in accordance with the Central government rules.

Those who are not vaccinated are required to carry a “negative RT-PCR certificate that will remain valid for 15 days”.

The current government guidelines allow only people above the age of 45 to get vaccinated, which means a majority of the delivery fleet of e-commerce and food delivery firms will have to keep getting tested every 15 days.

The bigger issue, according to an e-commerce firm executive who did not wish to be named, is that of logistics.

With cases in Maharashtra rising, it is becoming difficult to get tested, and waiting times run into up to 48 hours before an RT-PCR test can be conducted.

RT-PCR is a laboratory test that can identify the virus that causes COVID-19.

An Amazon spokesperson said that the firm is studying the latest state government guidelines to continue deliveries during curfew hours and on weekends in Maharashtra.

“We continue to practice stringent preventive measures for the safety of our associates such as adherence to social distancing norms, mandatory use of face-covering and daily temperature screenings for our delivery associates and people working in operations sites,” said the Amazon spokesperson.

The Flipkart Group said it is committed to the safety of all its employees, sellers and stakeholders conducting business with it while meeting the requirements of millions of its customers through its safe supply chain.

With the rising number of cases lately, Flipkart said it continues to follow the highest safety and SOPs that it has developed and institutionalised over the last several months.

These learnings have been immense, and the firm is ensuring that appropriate safety equipment such as masks, sanitisers are available with employees as they follow covid-appropriate behaviour.

“In view of the Maharashtra State Government’s new guidelines, we are taking definitive steps to ensure our frontline workers, including our delivery, product installation executives and kirana partners, are tested for Covid-19 as expected while delivering shipments,” said a Flipkart spokesperson.

Throughout the pandemic, Flipkart said its efforts have been to prioritise the safety of its supply chain and delivery executives and our customers.

“By delivering to customers across the country, thousands of our delivery heroes have been able to keep customers safe by reducing the need for them to step out of their homes to buy products,” said the spokesperson.

“At the same time, we have been able to help lakhs of sellers/MSMEs and artisans keep their businesses operational by offering a lively marketplace for them to sell their products, in the process creating lakhs of much-needed jobs.”

Similarly, a spokesperson at food delivery firm Zomato said, “We are covering the cost of vaccination as well as the RT-PCR tests required for our delivery fleet.

“Safety remains to be our top priority and we, therefore, are working with the authorities to ensure we can continue to safely deliver food to those in need.”

A spokesperson at Swiggy said, “We’re urging our partners to get the RT-PCR test and we will be covering that for them.”

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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