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China’s Ele.me to deliver food from 100 restaurants to frontline medical staff in Wuhan amid coronavirus outbreak

Chinese companies have also pledged funds and resources to support medical staff.

Chinese food delivery service giant Ele.me has gathered 100 restaurants to prepare food for frontline medical staff in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, after previously suspending food deliveries to hospitals in the city to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

The first batch of restaurants under the initiative, including global fast food chains McDonald’s and Burger King as well as local eateries in Wuhan, have already taken food delivery orders from over ten local hospitals, according to a post published on the official WeChat account of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group on Tuesday. Alibaba, which owns Ele.me, is also the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

An Ele.me rider safely delivered the first order to frontline medical staff on Sunday, Alibaba said, adding that 270 meals were delivered to doctors and nurses at Wuhan’s Xiehe Hospital, No 6 Hospital and Zhongnan Hospital the next day.

Ele.me had previously announced a temporary suspension of food deliveries to hospitals in both Wuhan and other areas affected by the outbreak, while rival Meituan similarly said it had suspended deliveries to some hospitals in Wuhan to ensure the safety of deliverymen and consumers. The initiative comes as Chinese internet companies pledge funds and resources to support the country’s medical staff amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, which has killed 132 and infected thousands more in the country as of Tuesday.

The government is sending medical teams from across the country to the epicenter of Wuhan in Hubei province, which has been the worst-hit by the epidemic, and at least 15 Chinese cities have been put on lockdown as the virus spreads outward from the provincial capital.

Companies are accordingly stepping up efforts to meet daily supply needs from the growing number of medical personnel involved.

Aside from Ele.me, other Alibaba-operated platforms such as food and lifestyle unit Koubei and travel service Fliggy have pledged to supply Wuhan city’s medical staff with local services including convenience stores for fresh produce, the statement said, calling for more local merchants to join the initiative.

Separately, Meituan announced earlier this week that it had set up a  RMB 200 million (USD 28.8 million) fund dedicated to caring for China’s medical staff. Initially, it will focus on assisting medical staff in Wuhan with funds going toward medical resources, humanitarian help, and ensuring that medical staff are supported in their daily lives, it said.

Other Meituan initiatives include providing 1,000 free takeaway meals every day for medical staff at hospitals in Wuhan and providing medical staff in China’s central Hubei province with free use of 300,000 shared bicycles.

Last week, Alibaba also announced a RMB 1 billion (USD 144.16 million) fund to purchase medical supplies from across China and overseas for hospitals in Wuhan, while social media giant Tencent Holdings donated RMB 300 million (USD 43.24 million) from its charity to buy facial masks and other medical supplies for people.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post