Tehran's Taxi Rides Go Cashless to Curtail COVID-19 Spread

With the novel coronavirus infecting thousands in Iran, people have turned to cashless payment services to curb their exposure to banknotes that can transfer the virus
Tehran's Taxi Rides Go Cashless to Curtail COVID-19 Spread
Tehran's Taxi Rides Go Cashless to Curtail COVID-19 Spread

Tehran’s residents have been increasingly using e-payment services for taxi fares, such that cashless payments registered a 30% increase in the past week. This could help limit the spread of COVID-19 through cash exchange.
The surge was reported by Alireza Qannadan, the head of Tehran Taxi Organization, Mehr News Agency reported.
"The 30% increase in cashless taxi fare payments has coincided with a 40% drop in taxi commute since the pandemic reached Iran in mid-February," he said.
According to the Health Ministry, since the coronavirus began spreading in the country until Tuesday, it has claimed the lives of 291, while 2,731 patients have recovered from among 8,042 infected people.
Health authorities have repeatedly warned the public to limit unnecessary outdoor exposures and get things done via the internet as much as possible to curb the rapid spread of the virus.
Limiting the use of banknotes has also been recommended by health experts, as one of the effective measures everyone can take. They are potentially one of the most contaminated objects with high circulation.
The idea of cash-free payment for taxis was initially floated in 2011 and has grown significantly in the capital city.
Toman, Phone Pay and Rialo are local e-payment service providers that help people pay their taxi fare with a cellphone and end the routine hassles and unpleasant scenes between cabbies who ask for change and passengers who never seem to have coins.
Jointly with Tehran Municipality, the service providers have tagged cabs with unique QR codes that act as identification signs, the scanning of which directs the user to a payment terminal.
To use the system, a passenger only needs to create an account in one of the three services. The account is a personalized rechargeable wallet with an embedded QR code scanner in the messenger's platform, through which they can pay the cab fare.
In Tehran, shared taxi fares per passenger are between 22,000 rials (14 cents) for a short ride to 60,000 rials (38 cents) for long-distance drives. While both passengers and cabbies prefer round numbers, mandatory prices introduced by the municipality almost always include some change of 1,000 or 2,000 rials that are hard to come by these days.



CBI Applauds the Move

The Central Bank of Iran is expanding infrastructure for contactless payment via QR codes and digital wallets in a bid to limit the coronavirus outbreak through the circulation of banknotes among the public or the use of debit cards in retail outlets.
“Reduced contact with contaminated banknotes, bank cards and POS devices in shops is crucial to avoid the contamination,” said Davoud Mohammad Beigi, the chief of CBI’s Payment Systems Department.
According to Beigi, QR payments could be handled via both static and dynamic platforms, but the CBI scheme only covers the static QR code payments because of its convenience.
Static QR codes are used for facilitating quick and simple payments in various industries like delivery service, in-home services, retailers, taxi drivers, and street vendors. In all of this, all a user has to do is scan the QR code to pay without any hassles.
One of the biggest advantages of using QR codes is that it facilitates instant payment. Making payment via QR codes is extremely quick compared to other modes of payment. All a user has to do is simply open the QR code scan app, scan the QR code and confirm to process the payment. Within a few seconds, the payments are made.
Making payments via QR codes is also highly secure. Any data transferred via QR codes is encrypted, making the payment foolproof.
In addition, payment via QR codes is reliable as it eliminates the probability of error. The pattern of black boxes consists of unique data, which enhances the reliability of the QR code payments.



Global Perspective

Cashless taxi payment has already become a common trend in numerous countries, including the US, China, the UK, Canada and Germany.
The move has been intensified due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus, which is forcing institutions around the world to rethink the use of particularly germy cash that most consumers touch every day.
On Friday, South Korea's central bank said it was taking all banknotes out of circulation for two weeks—and burning some—to reduce the spread of the virus, according to Reuters.
It follows China's massive initiative for deep cleaning potentially infected cash with ultraviolet light and high temperatures, and in some cases, destroying it. The treated cash came from high-risk infection areas, such as hospitals.
Meanwhile, the Louvre Museum in Paris this week banned cash amid the outbreak. Its decision to accept only credit card payments was part of an effort to make staffers feel more comfortable about returning to work, AP reported.
The concerns over cash come as the global number of people infected by the coronavirus nears 120,000, mostly in China. The outbreak may just drive up adoption of mobile payments, a newer technology that has long trailed behind cash in the US.

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