International mail coming to China will be disinfected upon arrival and held for up to seven days before delivery, Global Times reports.
The measures come as Chinese researchers say that a cluster of recent omicron infections is likely linked to postage coming from overseas.
US-based epidemiologist and Health Economist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding said, “If true – this is the first outbreak cluster spread in such a way.”
China’s State Post Bureau announced that they would be inspecting mail processing sites around the country and advised delivery companies to provide health protection for employees and the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and hand sanitizer.
Authorities are required to conduct nucleic acid testing on couriers, while couriers themselves have been discouraged from attending large gatherings.
China delivery service SE Express has issued a notice saying that international mail could be delayed by six days, due to pandemic prevention and control methods.
In Beijing, the Municipal Postal Administration demands that international mail is disinfected every four hours, and workers are required to take two nucleic acid tests a week.
In January, Zhuhai and Shenzhen also suspected outbreaks within the cities were linked to international mail that was contaminated with the virus.
China’s Center for Disease (China CDC) later went on the record stating that the outbreak of omicron (which the country is still battling with today) was likely caused by international post.
Beijing reported the city’s first case of the omicron virus on January 15, a 26-year-old woman. Seven days later, five close contacts of the initial case tested positive for the strain of the virus.
The woman had not traveled outside of Beijing, nor was she a close contact with any infected persons at the time. However, she had received international mail as part of her job.
One of the parcels she received on January 11 tested positive for the virus, despite it having been disinfected.
According to WebMD, the chances of COVID-19 spreading due to surface transmission is less than 1 in 10,000.
It is believed that COVID-19 particles can live on plastic surfaces for two to three days and cardboard surfaces for 24 hours. As for paper, the virus’ life span can be anything from a few minutes to five days.
However, cold temperatures, such as those found in the luggage compartment of high-altitude planes, could lead to the virus surviving for longer periods.
The US National Library of Medicine conducted an experiment that found the virus dies out quicker in warmer conditions.
They concluded that in temperatures of 65 degrees Celsius or higher, the virus could survive for no longer than three minutes. When the temperature was decreased to 50-55 degrees Celsius, the virus could survive for 20 minutes.
So, the chances of catching COVID-19 from international mail is slim, even though the virus lives for longer in colder conditions it still doesn't live for long on plastic, paper or cardboard packaging. Although the woman in Beijing's package was disinfected, a thorough disifenction alongside these conditions will dramatically reduce the probability of transmission from surface to person.
However, as China remains committed to defeating the virus rather than living with it, it seems like they are going to continue to apply 'zero-COVID' to international mail, too.
[Cover image via Global TImes]