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Uber, Lyft suspend shared rides to limit coronavirus spread

After drivers called for a moratorium on the carpool feature, the ride-hailing companies announce they'll temporarily disable the feature in the US and Canada.

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Passengers won't be able to pool their Uber rides or use Lyft's shared rides in the US or Canada for the time being.

Angela Lang/CNET

Uber and Lyft announced they're temporarily suspending shared rides in the US and Canada on Tuesday, in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus. Passengers using Uber's ride-hailing app in either country will no longer be able to use the UberPool option, as previously reported by Reuters. The same goes for Lyft's shared rides feature.

"Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve," Andrew Macdonald, Uber Rides and Platform's senior vice president, said in a statement. "We remain in close contact with local leaders and will continue to work with them to discourage non-essential travel."

Both Uber's pool and Lyft's shared rides services are normally available in cities across the US. But for now, the shared rides options will be disabled in the app.

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"The health and safety of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we're dedicated to doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19," a Lyft spokeswoman said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor the situation closely and base our actions on official guidance."

The move comes after drivers called on the companies to temporarily shutter the carpooling features in their apps. The Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents more than 80,000 New York City ride-hail drivers, called for the moratorium on the shared rides features on Monday.

"Packing five strangers in a pooled ride is a bad idea right now," Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, said Monday. "For the health and safety of drivers, riders and our communities, we are urging a moratorium on shared or 'pool' rides." 

Along with shuttering its pool service, Uber also added an in-app message reminding riders to travel only when necessary. The company's regular rides and food delivery platform Uber Eats -- which waived delivery fees to help local restaurants get through the outbreak -- remain available.

Last week, Uber said it could temporarily suspend the accounts of any riders or drivers who've contracted or been exposed to the coronavirus. It did so last month with around 240 accounts in Mexico after riders had contact with two drivers who may've been exposed to the virus.

The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December. As of Tuesday, it had infected nearly 195,000 people and caused more than 7,800 deaths globally.