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Dyson and Gtech answer UK call for ventilator design and production to support COVID-19 response

Companies around the world are shifting production lines and business models to address the needs of governments and healthcare agencies in their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Two companies answering that call are Dyson and Gtech, both of which are working on ventilator hardware, leveraging their experience building vacuums and other motor-driven airflow gadgets to spin up new designs and get them validated and produced as quickly as possible.

Dyson, the globally-recognized appliance maker, is working with The Technology Partnership (TTP) on a brand new ventilator design called the CoVent. This design is meant to be made quickly at at high volumes, and leverages Dyson’s existing Digital Motor design, as well as the company’s air purification products, to deliver safe and consistent ventilation for COVID-19 patients, according to an internal email from founder James Dyson to Dyson employees and provided to TechCrunch.

Dyson was reacting to a request from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for ventilator supplies, and intends to first fulfil an order of 10,000 units o the UK Government. Its ventilator still needs to be tested and its production process approved by the government and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (the MHRA, its FDA equivalent), but Dyson says in the email that “the race is now on to get it into production.” The company notes that experts from both the UK’s national healthcare agency and the MHRA have been involved throughout its design process, which should help expedite approvals.

The CoVent meets the specifications set out by clinicians for ventilator hardware, and is both bed-mounted and portable with a battery power supply, for flexible us across a variety of settings, including during patient transportation. Because it uses a lightly modified version Dyson’s existing Digital Motor design, the company says that the fan units needed for its production are “available in very high volume.”

“I am proud of what Dyson engineers and our partners at TTP have achieved. I am eager to see this new device in production and in hospitals as soon as possible,” Dyson wrote in his email. “This is clearly a time of grave international crisis, I will therefore donate 5,000 units to the international effort, 1,000 of which will go to the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Gtech, another UK home appliance and vacuum maker, has likewise done what it can to answer the government’s call for ventilator hardware. The company’s owner Nick Grey said that it received a request to build up to 30,000 ventilators in just a two-week span, which promoted them to quickly set about figuring out what went into the design of this medical hardware.

Gtech’s team developed a ventilator that can be made from parts easily made from abundant stock materials, or off-the-shelf pre-assembled parts. The company says that it can spin up production of around 100 per day within a week or two, so long as it can source steel fabrication and CNC machining suppliers.

In addition to its own production capacity, Gtech is making its ventilator designs available for free to the broader community in order to ramp production. The company says that “there’s no reason why thousands of emergency ventilators can’t be made each day” in this way, according to an interview with Grey and CTV News. Like the Dyson model, Gtech’s design will need assessment and certification from the UK government and regulators before they can be put into use.

Uber Eats UK waives fees during the coronavirus crisis

Uber Eats is waiving delivery and activations fees in the UK to support restaurants hit by decreasing demand during the coronavirus crisis.

The measure will apply until March 31 when it says it will review it.

On Monday the on-demand food delivery giant announced a similar waiver of delivery fees in the US.

The announcement by Uber Eats UK comes shortly after Just Eat UK said it would reduce its commission and waive some fees for 30 days — as part of an emergency support package for partner restaurants struggling to cope with disruption to their businesses.

“The high street is being hit hard by Coronavirus but the sector can play a critical role in helping the thousands of people who rely on it — for work and as an essential service — during this difficult time,” said Eats UK general manager, Toussaint Wattinne, in a statement.

“We are putting in place a range of initiatives to continue to support restaurant partners, particularly small business owners, as they keep their kitchens firing to feed people across the country.”

Another support measure it’s offering is a new opt-in program for all restaurants on its platform to get daily payments, rather than the standard weekly payment — to help with cash flow.

Today the UK government finally ordered bars and restaurants to close — having previously only advised citizens to stay away from social spaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Confirmed cases in the country have been increasing steady in recent weeks, approaching 4,000 at the time of writing, with 177 deaths recorded in total so far.

The closure order applies to bars and restaurants nationwide from tonight (Saturday morning) — cementing the economic shock the coronavirus is dealing to the sector.

However food delivery remains an option on the table: Earlier this week the government said it would relax planning regulations to allow pubs and restaurants to offer takeout services straightaway, without needing to apply for permission.

Uber Eats looks to be hoping to capitalize on the contingency provision by onboarding restaurants that haven’t previously offered takeout. It said today it’s adding a fast-tracked onboarding process for new restaurants to help them get online on its platform as soon as possible.

It’s also expanding the number of convenience stores available via the app — and waiving delivery fees for them too.

Keeping the nation fed through the crisis is another pressing operational headache for the UK government as worried shoppers have stripped supermarket shelves — putting strain on ‘just in time’ supply chains. Again, Uber looks to be hoping to help plug any gaps by expanding the surface area for food and grocery orders.

Also today it said it will be introducing a new contactless delivery product feature as a measure that’s intended to shrink the health risks for couriers making deliveries.

The public health crisis has shone a critical spotlight on the lack of protections for platform workers who aren’t covered by employment rights like sick pay — meaning they can either self isolate or earn money.

Several other European on-demand delivery apps have already added similar contactless provisions.

Just Eat cuts its take for 30-days to help restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis

UK takeout marketplace Just Eat has announced a 30-day emergency support package for restaurants on its platform to help them through disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis.

From tomorrow (March 20) until April 19 the package — which Just Eat says is worth £10M+ — will see funds directed back to UK partner restaurants in the form of a commission rebate of one third (33%) on all commissions paid to Just Eat by restaurants; and via the removal of commissions across all collection orders which it intends to help reduce pressure on restaurants’ delivery operations, where collection is still available.

Just Eat also said it’s waiving all sign-up fees for new restaurants joining its platform (which must still meet its standard conditions, such as being registered with the relevant local authority as a food business and having the required hygiene rating); and relaxing any existing arrangements that may be in place with partners to enable them to work with delivery aggregators — “regardless of existing contractual terms”.

It added that it will continue to pay restaurants weekly, including the rebate now in place.

Currently Just Eat has around 35,700 restaurants on its platform in the UK, with delivery available to 95% of UK postcodes.

Commenting in a statement, Andrew Kenny, Just Eat’s UK MD, said:

These are some of the most challenging times the restaurants we work with have ever been through. We want to show our support and help them to keep their doors open, so they can focus on doing what they do best — delivering food to people across the UK every day. We know our Restaurant Partners are worried about their teams — from chefs to delivery drivers — and these measures will go some way to helping them maintain their operations and support their people.

The food delivery industry has a crucial role to play at this time of national crisis and it is only right that as the market leader in the UK Just Eat steps up to help our independent partners so they can keep delivering for the communities that need them.

In the UK and elsewhere there is rising concern about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality sector as people are told to stay away from social spaces.

On Monday the UK government advised people not to go to bars and restaurants or other social spaces in a bid to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. Although, unlike many other European countries, it has not yet issued strict quarantine measures such as ordering hospitality industry businesses to close their doors and citizens to work at home where possible.

On-demand food delivery remains one of the services that continues to operate even in locked down EU Member States. However with gig economy business models not typically offering platform workers an employment safety net of benefits such as sick pay the entire sector has come under fresh scrutiny for the legal status it assigns to delivery couriers, given the heightened risks posed to them by the novel coronavirus. In a nutshell it they need to self isolate they won’t be able to earn. 

In its press release today Just Eat said it’s working on other unspecified support initiatives for couriers, as well as for groups including the vulnerable and isolated, and frontline workers.

These will be announced in due course, it added. 

Although it also notes that the vast majority of orders placed through its network are delivered by restaurants with their own delivery capability. Its commission for such orders is a maximum of 14%, it added.

Some on-demand food delivery startups operating in Europe which do rely on gig workers to make deliveries have already announced emergency support funds to help platform workers who fall ill or need to self isolate during the COVID-19 crisis — including UK-based Deliveroo and Spain’s Glovo.

Although there has also been some criticism of how easy it is for couriers to access claimed support.