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Covid-19: Is food takeout and delivery safe?

Kenyans who love takeouts are eyeing deliveries with suspicion. The more paranoid have stopped ordering altogether

In Summary

• Restaurants were ordered to only do takeouts/deliveries to curb corona spread

• Concerns have arisen that how food is handled could still lead to transmission

Illustration of the convenience of online food delivery
Illustration of the convenience of online food delivery
Image: PXFUEL

With over 200 coronavirus cases in Kenya and multiple casualties, life has changed drastically for people living in urban areas.

Last month, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe ordered the closure of bars and instructed that restaurants should only do takeouts and deliveries.

A spot check by the Star found many restaurants have put notices stating, "We only do takeouts."

 
 
 
 
 
 

True to their words, people get into the restaurants and are expected to wash their hands before getting into the block.

But what about those people who want their foods or even groceries to be delivered? How safe is this food? What about the delivery people? Are they well equipped to handle food without fear of contamination?

"I ordered for cupcakes for my brother’s birthday and they came okay, except for the delivery guy," Seline Angel* (not her real name) told the Star.

Angel said the cyclist did not have any face masks or even gloves to prevent any spread of the coronavirus. The government has issued a mandatory order that boda bodas and cyclists wear masks.

"The cyclist just had a thin scarf around his mouth, the usual scarfs they use, and no gloves whatsoever. I sanitised that box with the quickness it deserved. I can’t take any chances," Angel said.

Where Angel, 30, lives in Umoja, people order food more than cooking, especially those who stay alone.

"Most people here love food takeouts. They just need to be more careful," she said with concern.

After some hours, I hook up with a longtime friend, who tells me he is really skeptical of ordering foods.

“I stay alone but right now, I would rather ask my cousin, who stays nearby, to bring me food," Washington Nderitu* tells the Star.

Nderitu, who is a street food addict, says he trusts his cousin with the food more than the food delivery services.

"Right now you cannot take chances. This disease is serious. Even as we speak, I cannot eat street foods any more for fear of coronavirus. My cousin is a nurse and she takes all the precautions needed," he says.

Even though he does not know how to cook, he would rather wait for his cousin than buy any food anywhere.

"This is what gives me comfort," he says.

A section of Jumia's website showing measures taken by the online delivery service to prevent the spread of the virus
A section of Jumia's website showing measures taken by the online delivery service to prevent the spread of the virus
Image: COURTESY

SAFETY MEASURES

Some online delivery services have put posters on how to keep safe during this Covid-19 period.

An example is Jumia, which is widely used in Kenya. On their online homepage, the delivery service says they have taken several measures to ensure safe shopping during this period.

“We also do the same for our sellers, such as making sure social distancing is enforced when they bring products. Due to the challenge we are currently facing, this may delay the delivery of orders compared to our usual timelines,” they said.

“Future orders placed will be delivered within the timelines indicated on the product page and checkout, which have been updated accordingly. We appreciate your support and patience.”

Jumia says its delivery agents are well trained to facilitate ‘contactless’ delivery and cashless deliveries, where possible.

Their drivers have been advised to limit contact with customers by placing packages at the customer’s doorstep and stepping back.

Another one is Uber through Uber Eats. The organisation sends its customers messages on email of how they can order for food with promo codes.

“Hi, Nancy. To make your workday at home less disruptive, Uber Eats is offering free delivery over lunchtime hours, from 11 am to 2 pm on weekdays,” it says.

“To receive your lunchtime order with free delivery, look out for the daily in-app billboard in the Uber Eats app with the updated Promo Code. Apply the code in your 'Promotions Tab' to enable free delivery on any order placed between 11am and 2 pm for that day.”

But with all these disclaimers and discounts from these places, how safe Is the product being delivered?

The solution to all this is cook at home. Do not order for food. Just cook!
Nutritionist Gladys Mugambi 

EXTRA PRECAUTIONS

Former Ministry of Health head of nutrition Gladys Mugambi said people who deliver food should take extra precautions.

“These people must ensure when they are coughing, they let the management know and keep off the food,” she told the Star.

Mugambi says restaurants who do takeouts should also ensure they handle food with the utmost hygiene possible to prevent the spread of the disease.

“They should use gloves but make sure they keep on wearing clean ones because most of the times, they will use the same gloves for everything,” she said.

She says handling more than one food could mean the person doing deliveries might touch a surface that is already contaminated.

“So let the person have extra pairs of gloves. Let him have masks on before doing the deliveries. Let him understand the restaurant is counting on him to do an excellent job,” she said.

“The solution to all this is cook at home, do not order for food or any products. Just cook!”

Tegemeo Institute researcher Tim Njagi told the Star as long as restaurants follow the guidelines set by the government, everything is good to go.

“I believe when you walk into the restaurant, you will find people sanitising and washing their hands frequently,” he said.

But he said the government should worry about people who do the deliveries to specific people in the estates.

“This where the gap is. Even before coronavirus, there were those cyclists who did not care. And this will not change today,” he said.

“The issue here is any person who rides a motorcycle will be asked to deliver food. This is where you might find people contracting the disease if the person is positive and unaware.”

Edited by T Jalio