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Mail Falls Under Scrutiny in the Age of Coronavirus

Getting the mail is one of the constants of life, even in the digital age, but with COVID-19 impacting nearly every aspect of normality across the globe, the parcel post is under scrutiny.

The United States Postal Service (USPS), with its creed of “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” has a dedicated COVID-19 Command Response leadership team that is focusing on employee, operational, business and customer continuity during this unprecedented epidemic.

“We continue to follow the strategies and measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health departments,” USPS said. “Importantly, the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.”

WHO’s advisory, which would cover and is being noted by large package carriers such as UPS and FedEx, is that “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and been exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

The CDC’s take is that “in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”

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“Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets,” the CDC said. “Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”

There is also concern for the postal workers, both behind the scenes and the ones who deliver the mail to people’s homes. In a joint statement released Friday, UNI Global Union and the Universal Postal Union–the United Nations agency for the postal sector–said they were urging postal operators and postal unions to put key measures in place to protect the health and safety of postal workers around the world, as they continue to serve during the coronavirus health pandemic.

“In a time of social distancing, postal workers are delivering necessary provisions and connecting us to each other,” Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, said. “The safety of these frontline employees is our first priority, and the proper implementation of these international standards will protect workers as they deliver an essential, universal service to our communities.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic illustrates why the universal postal service must be regarded as essential, the joint statement said. When communication options available to the public are limited and free movement is restricted, the postal network reliably serves every household and provides access to a range of services, from the delivery of household items to payment solutions.”

These crucial functions are kept running by dedicated postal workers across the globe, the two organizations added. The Universal Postal Union, as the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players, and UNI Global Union, as the global representative for postal workers worldwide, said they are “dedicated to ensuring that the world’s postal infrastructure benefits society as a whole, while safeguarding and protecting the well-being of postal workers.”

They urge postal operators and postal unions around the world to inform all postal workers about the risks of infection, the importance of the use of personal protective equipment and maintaining hygiene standards. They recommend that all postal workers be provided with personal protective equipment, to disinfect workplaces, work tools and vehicles regularly, and to adapt workplaces to achieve the recommended social distancing needed to prevent virus transmission at all postal facilities.

They also suggest adopting processing and delivery methods tailored to mitigating the risks of infection.