With many of us duly following advice to #stayhome during the virus pandemic, there’s been a huge surge in all kinds of things delivered to residences across the country. From groceries and essentials to fast food, medicine and fashion and beauty items zipping all over Singapore, courier companies and delivery personnel are currently some of the busiest people around.
But could there be viruses lurking on your Taobao package or supermarket delivery? And have you been forwarded the WhatsApp message about germs possibly lying in wait in the letters in your mailbox? The truth is that the mail and packages and everything else you receive would have gone through multiple hands — the person who packed your item, the person who brought and loaded it onto the delivery truck, and likely lastly, the person who hands you your package. You can safe distance all you want, but is it possible that the virus is being delivered to your house, your safe haven which you rigorously disinfect and sterilise?
Although it appears the virus can remain viable on surfaces of different materials from a few hours to a few days, and can apparently survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, experts say there is low risk of Coronavirus spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days at ambient temperatures, due to the poor survival of the virus on surfaces.
So while it’s unlikely that your parcel shipped from another country is carrying viruses from that country, it could still come into contact with someone who might be positive for Covid-19 when it arrives here and passes from hand to hand to your hand.
Then there’s the problem of the people who make the deliveries. Up till last week, we were getting deliveries handed to us by courier folks, and asked to sign with our fingers on their mobile devices, which definitely puts us within 1m of them. And it’s not just the recipient at risk — these delivery personnel put themselves at risk too.
So what can you do to protect yourself and the people in your house from possible nasties getting a free ride in on your packages and deliveries?
#1: When you receive a package, put it down on the floor, not the table. And especially not your dining table.
This is something that makes sense even before Covid-19. Why would you place a package that could have been in unsanitary conditions on your table? In fact, place it far away from high access areas. If you’re really scared, don’t bring it into your house at all. Leave it outside first and let the heat kill whatever virus may be lurking.
#2: If you’ve come into contact with a delivery person or touched a mobile device or a pen to sign for your delivery, wash your hands.
#3: Wipe your package down with disinfectant.
Especially if you’ve brought the package into your house, wipe it down if you plan to open it immediately. Or you can open the outer packaging if there is one, discard that safely, wash your hands, then open the inside packaging. Add another step of disinfecting the inside packaging for more peace of mind. As for the item itself, you have to trust that the merchant you purchased it from has taken steps to make sure it’s clean and sterile. In any case, the item would have packed a while back, and is more unlikely to carry viruses.
#4: If you can wait, don’t open your package immediately.
Yes, it’s tempting to unbox a delivery pronto, but if you can, wait for half a day, or 24 hours if you don’t need the items urgently. That unboxing video can wait.
#5: Wash your hands.
After touching something unknown, like a delivery box, courier invoice or bag, wash your hands with soap and water. Definitely do not touch your face before that.
#6: Minimise contact with delivery personnel.
This is just safer for everyone. Ask your courier delivery person to leave your package outside the door and request not to sign anything if possible. If you have to, as always, wash your hands after. You now have the option of asking food delivery personnel to place your orders on the floor in a thermal bag, then wait 1m away while you pick up your food. The delivery riders or drivers do not come into contact with the food, so as long as the restaurant or food partners employ safe and sanitary practices, there should be no problem.