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Uber And Lyft Riders Of Asian Descent Face Coronavirus Panic

coronavirus Lyft and Uber
Despite efforts from Lyft and Uber to curb discriminatory behavior, discrimination linked to coronavirus panic continues to happen for users. Chinese family wearing face masks walk in a pedestrian crossing in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Image: AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe

Asians living in the U.S. are facing increased racial discrimination while using ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft as the coronavirus that has killed more than 1,600 people continues to spread in China and globally.

Eric Han, an employee of a Microsoft retail store in Seattle, was a victim of such discrimination when he was asked by an Uber driver whether he was from China after he coughed.

The driver later told him he could have coronavirus even after he had said he was not Chinese.

“I’m not one to take offense very easily so I wasn’t angry, just kind of chuckling under my breath like ‘wow, this is really happening’,” Han told CNBC.

Despite their efforts to curb discriminatory behavior, these incidents continue to happen for Lyft and Uber.

Screenshots shared with CNBC from a Facebook group with more than 12,000 Lyft and Uber drivers show that many drivers from the two ride-sharing platforms are saying that it is not safe to pick up riders of Asian descent.

Dana Davis, a Lyft spokesperson, said that her company takes any reports of discrimination very seriously. In her statement, she added that Lyft is monitoring updates on the global outbreak closely.

“Our priority is to keep our riders, drivers and employees safe, with as little disruption as possible. We will continue to evaluate the situation as it unfolds, and base our policies and recommendations on official guidance,” Davis said.

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Uber says that it has a portal for public health authorities that it is in regular contact with, and referred CNBC to its community guidelines that all drivers are required to adhere to.

Uber has, however, acknowledged that it has suspended more than 200 accounts of users in Mexico that were suspected to have come into contact with the coronavirus.