(Pocket-lint) - Restaurants have been forced to go delivery or takeout-only to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. It's considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization, with more than 407,000 cases and over 18,200 deaths at the time of this writing.

Experts from the WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are warning people to separate and stay home as much as possible, especially the elderly and immunocompromised. Many localities have also mandated that restaurants start limiting in-dining, even though the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration do not say COVID-19 can be transmitted through food.

Of course, if you interact with waitresses and restaurant staff, they could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. So, as a precaution, if you want to continue supporting local businesses and small restaurants during this worldwide crisis, you should stick to ordering delivery or perhaps takeout. You may still be exposed, but there are ways both you and others can try to remain safe.


Which food delivery app should you use?

First, you need to decide how to order your food. There are, of course, several food-delivery apps that you can use to get your takeout or groceries couriered right to your doorstep in the US. But you'll still want to limit your contact with the delivery worker. Luckily, the following apps offer ways for you to order and then designate a contact-free drop-off location during the pandemic:

Instacart: Leave at My Door delivery

In North America, you can use Instacart's "Leave at My Door" delivery option, in which you provide specific delivery instructions like a gate code or apartment number, and then a real-time photo will alert you when your groceries are at your doorstep. Instacart has more than 350 retail partners and delivers from more than 25,000 stores across 5,500 cities in the US and Canada.

Just enter your zip code on Instacart.com or the mobile app to see what stores are available for delivery near you.

Postmates: No-contact deliveries

Postmates lets you pick a dropoff option as your delivery address, allowing you to specify how you’d like to receive your deliveries. You’ll have the option to select no-contact, and they’ll leave your order at the door. Just order as normal, and during checkout, tap on your delivery address to add a dropoff option. You can also edit your dropoff option from the tracking screen.

When your courier is on their way to you, you can text them a photo or specific instructions on where to leave your order. If you are ordering from the web, for instance, add a note to your delivery address to specify, "Leave order at my door."

Grubhub: Contact-free delivery

Grubhub too offers a contact-free delivery option at checkout, so you can safely continue to support your favourite local restaurants during the pandemic. Grubhub drivers will simply call or text when they arrive, and then they'll drop off your order on the doorstep, in the lobby, or other area designated by you. This option is now available on the website and latest version of the app.

Note: Consider ordering directly from the restaurant as well, as third-party apps can charge commission fees. If you do order directly, first make sure the courier has no problem adhering to a contact-free delivery experience. Just ask the restaurant when you call.


Tips and tricks to safely order takeout

Discard your boxes

Since the CDC said there is a risk of getting the virus by coming into contact with a surface that has the virus on it, perhaps consider wearing disposable gloves when initially receiving your takeout, and be sure to toss the packaging into the garbage as well. The Washington Post claimed that some experiments show the virus can remain viable on cardboard and plastic for up to three days.

Wash your hands

It's well known at this point that you should wash your hands as a preventative measure, including before you eat. As the CDC pointed out, you need to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth at all times, too.

Wear an N95

CDC also recommends wearing an N95 respirator mask to reduce your exposure to airborne particles. If you are going to a restaurant to pick up your food, it can't hurt to wear one. However, in the US, regulations require that workers undergo an annual fit test and user seal check each time a respirator is used. So, be aware that your N95 likely isn't a custom fit and therefore not 100 per cent effective.

Disinfect your surfaces

According to the CDC, you should clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, and that includes your kitchen counters and dining room tables before and after eating. CDC even recommends using chemicals to clean hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, switches, and remotes.

Leave a good tip

In the US, a 20 per cent tip is customary for waitresses and couriers. Since you are putting them at risk for food, now is not the time to skimp.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.