Written By: Isheta Srivastava and Nishtha Das
The unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has forced countries across the world to make harsh decisions in order to help save humanity. Several nations are now into lockdown, with only essential services being functional. The World Health Organisation (hereinafter referred to as ‘WHO’) has declared the said outbreak as a pandemic and has issued certain advisories on March 18, 2020 which have to be followed to cease the further spread of the virus.
While practising a pro-active approach towards terminating the spread of the virus, India has entered into a complete lockdown starting March 24, 2020 upto May 03, 2020. As the name suggests, a nation-wide lockdown includes seizure of all services excluding essential services.
During this period of confinement, many restaurants are operating, through assistance from various app-based delivery partners. The said partners thoroughly follow the WHO recommended safety practices while delivering food and also take all such protective requirements to avoid spread of the virus through such delivery. However, a recent incident about a delivery boy being tested positive came as a shocker for everyone.
The Pizza Delivery Incident
On April 16, 2020, a food delivery chain confirmed that one of its delivery riders in Delhi had been tested positive for COVID 19. This news opened a can of worms for the food delivery businesses in India and instilled a sense of fear in the minds of the consumers who believe in the safety measures and undertakings of food delivery businesses amidst this viral outbreak.
What can be a possible impact of the incident for the Food Delivery Businesses?
One away of looking at it can be in contravention to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) safety practices. This contravention would happen if the delivery company had allowed the infected person to work even after he showed slightest symptoms of infection. In such a scenario, if the company is found to have not complied with the safety instructions issued by an authority like those of social distancing and isolation on display of any of the symptoms, it can attract multiple liabilities, both civil and criminal.
What are kinds of liabilities can arise for the employer?
For instance, under general principles of tort law, the delivery company can be held liable for negligence and vicarious liability, i.e. an employer being responsible for the acts of his employee. It can further be liable for criminal liability like that of causing harm, disrupting public health and public order. Further, the company can also held liable for providing deficiency of services under Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Therefore, it becomes important for the stakeholder to understand that in situations like that of today, being vigilance and caution are of utmost importance to avoid any liability for employer and employee.
What are the measures recommended by the World Health Organization to avoid any liability?
Keeping in mind the safety and security currently, the need of the hour is that the Hospitality Industry especially Hotels and Restaurants which are functioning amidst the lockdown duly follow the basic protective measures against corona virus recommended by the WHO. The measures are listed below:
- Regular hand wash – Regular and thorough cleaning of hands with an alcohol based hand rub or with soap and water. Frequent washing of hands kills the virus that be attached to the hands.
- Maintain social distancing – Maintaining a distance of 1 meter/ 3 feet between persons at all times to avoid any virus contact through cough or sneeze. Coughing or sneezing releases small water droplets that may contain the virus, therefore the chances of contamination become high. In order to avoid the said contamination, it is important to maintain social distancing.
- Avoid touching of eyes, nose and mouth – Through surface contact, hands may become carriers of the virus. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to eyes, nose or mouth, hence entering the body.
- Practice respiratory hygiene – A good respiratory hygiene is also very important to break the virus chain. The practice includes covering of nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing or even wearing a mask to avoid any sort of virus transfer.
How beneficial is it for the Hospitality Industry, especially Hotels and Restaurants, if they follow the guidelines issued by WHO?
The declarations of maintaining WHO safety standards creates a sense of trust among the consumers that availing food delivery services is sufficeintly protected from the virus spread. Moreover, in presence of these measure the hotels, restaurants and food delivery apps will also regularly keep a tab on the health of its employees and on slightest display any symptom will send such employees into mandatory isolation and quarantine.
Therefore, in critical circumstances, it is important for the business entities to adhere to the safety measures as declared or claimed on the app/ website. Additionally, as their delivery partners coming in contact with various individuals and their families on a daily basis, practical implementation of the safety measures also becomes a necessity.
 The Economic Times, April 16, 2020 Delivery boy tests positive for Covid-19 in south Delhi, families that ordered put in quarantine – https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/families-in-south-delhi-isolated-after-delivery-boy-tests-positive/articleshow/75175022.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst