Supplied
  • Bolt has begun offering 'isolated' rides which help protect passengers and drivers from Covid-19.
  • Cars which offer the service are essentially outfitted with a big plastic barrier that limits airflow and droplets that could carry SARS-CoV-2.
  • It cost the same as a normal ride, and is available in Joburg, Cape Town, and Durban.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Ride-hailing app Bolt is now offering "isolated" rides with a barrier to protect driver and passengers in South Africa– and it costs the same as a normal ride.

Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt in South Africa, says the app has seen a big increase in demand for rides as the economy has begun opening up again.

However, it’s no surprise that people are cautious about sharing a car with a potentially infectious stranger. And it’s both the drivers and the passengers who are concerned.

“If drivers get exposed…that’s their livelihood for two weeks while they self-isolate,” says Taylor.

Bolt’s solution is "isolated" rides, which you request through the app in the same way that you would request a standard ride.

The isolated car has a plastic screen secured between driver and passenger which, according to Bolt, limits the airflow in the vehicle, and block droplets that could carry infection, a major vector for the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

In addition, “it is mandatory for drivers and passengers to wear face masks,” says Bolt.

“Passengers must sanitize their hands on entering the vehicle, and drivers are required to ventilate and sanitise the car between every trip.” 

Bolt has rolled out the cars in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. The company has paid to fit 3,000 vehicles with the barriers. New drivers who want the barrier installed only have to pay R100, says Taylor.

“What we’ve found is that drivers earn up to 50% more within a week,” says Taylor. “So it pays for itself pretty quickly.”

Customers asking for the isolated rides are typically requesting it on longer trips, which earn more for the driver.

The company says many of the initial users were healthcare and essential services workers whose employers paid for ride-sharing, rather than having their employees risk public transport.

(Compiled by Edward-John Bottomley)

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