China's Didi sets $10 million fund for drivers who test positive for coronavirus


By Julia Love

MEXICO CITY, March 12 (Reuters) - Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing told Reuters on Thursday that it had created a $10 million fund to support drivers and couriers diagnosed with the coronavirus as companies worldwide grapple with how to respond to the pandemic.

The fund will support Didi's drivers and couriers in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Japan and Mexico, following similar steps in the company's home market of China.

As cases of the virus soar worldwide, companies in the so-called gig-economy have come under pressure to look after people who work on their platforms and are typically classified as independent contractors, lacking sick leave and other benefits.

"The health of partners and passengers is our top priority and we hope this fund will help support them and protect the safety of this platform," Didi President Jean Liu said in a statement.

The amount of support that drivers and couriers will receive and the length of time they will be eligible were still being determined, a Didi spokesman said, adding that drivers and couriers will receive additional information from the company on a country-specific basis in the coming days.

"We're working quickly to define the details, and will be providing details locally as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

Didi's chief rival, San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc UBER.N, said on Saturday it will offer compensation to drivers and delivery people diagnosed with the coronavirus or placed in quarantine for up to 14 days in the markets where it operates around the world.

In Latin America, the fund represents an opportunity for Didi to build goodwill as ride-hailing regulations are being shaped in countries such as Chile and Colombia, said Gonzalo Araujo, a former Uber executive who is now a partner at Orza, a Bogota-based public affairs firm.

"It serves them well to deploy a positive conversation around these issues," he said.

In China, where the coronavirus emerged in December, Didi has offered a daily allowance to drivers who have been hospitalized with the disease and provided free transportation for medical workers, among other programs.

(Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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