Gig couriers delivering people, food and packages in a pandemic: Containment strategies to mitigate the occupational and public health impact
Gig courier workers, such as Uber Eats, Amazon Flex, and Lyft drivers, have been busier than ever during the Canadian COVID‑19 pandemic as the public attempts to avoid illness by ordering take-away food, shopping online and taking ride-hails rather than public transportation. This places gig courier workers in a unique position to become infected with COVID‑19 and transmit it to others as they move people, food and packages from one location to another. Although gig couriers are key vectors between where people live (e.g. homes, care facilities) and the outside world, formal strategies do not exist to protect them from exposure and to mitigate their role in disease transmission. Importantly, this risk is not expected to change anytime soon as the high use of couriers will likely not decline as the economy re-opens. This study will contribute to coronavirus containment strategies by identifying disease transmission risks embedded in gig work contexts and practices, developing clear and tailored interventions for gig courier workers about gig courier disease-related safety and transmission, and widely disseminating results, in live time, as they are identified. Using framework analysis explicitly geared towards generating policy- and practice-orientated findings within limited time periods, we will: document existing courier safety organisational policy; map gig courier worker work, disease exposure and transmission conditions (with attention to gendered dimensions) via social media forums and in-depth interviews with workers and courier firm representatives; and categorise disease transmission risks. Supported by our Strategic Advisory Committee of unions, government municipalities, employers, and vulnerable worker advocates, and using real-time public health communications, this study will create effective national interventions to reduce gig courier disease exposure and protect the public health of Canadians using these courier services.