Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing has now become the norm amongst people around the world. Yet, it’s difficult to completely disconnect ourselves when it comes to food and online purchases.
At some point, our groceries, takeout meals or delivered goods could come into contact by someone who’s tested positive for the virus.
Nevertheless, we’re seeing inaccurate information regarding the transmission of COVID-19 spread like wildfire across the Internet. Many people continue to wonder whether they are at risk of contracting the virus from packaging.
In order to provide you with the answer to this question, we wrote a blog post on COVID-19 and packaging. However, to further help your understanding, we wanted to provide you with more updated and accurate information.
What do We Know About the Coronavirus Outbreak
As discussed in our previous blog post, coronavirus (officially referred to as COVID-19) is an infectious disease which causes respiratory illness with flu=like symptoms. These symptoms include cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia.
The virus is transmitted through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze, and through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
Across the world, we’ve seen the drastic impact the disease has had on the elderly, children and those with immunocompromised systems.
At the moment, there’s no cure for the virus, and many countries have undergone periods of lockdown, as the need for social distancing continues to arise.
Amidst this, we’ve noticed a digital transformation which has caused a surge in e-commerce operations and deliveries around the world.
Consequently, many institutions are testing the lifespan of coronavirus on various surfaces. In fact, the MIT Technology Review’s study reports the most significant research on this issue.
The review refers to the virus as SARS-CoV-2 and reports:
- The virus was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard
- On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 found after four hours
- On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 found after 24 hours
Several institutions and medical journals have reported similar findings as well.
Can You Contract the Virus from Packaging?
It is technically possible that a package coming to your house is contaminated with the virus. Somewhere on the way, the people handling it may be infected and cough on it.
However, it’s the actual probability of transmission that we must address.
Generally speaking, the packages we receive are made from cardboard. Unlike plastic, cardboard is a porous material. This means a droplet would probably penetrate into the material and may not be so easily picked up when you touch the package.
With the survivability of the virus on cardboard to be only 24 hours, chances are you won’t come into contact with the virus at all. Think about it: the time it actually takes for the package to arrive at your doorstep takes several days, if not weeks.
During this time, the shipping conditions such as humidity, wind and alternating temperatures not only reduce the chances of transmission, but in most cases kill the virus.
Moreover, it’s important to remember the main cause of transmission: respiratory droplets between two people.
How Should You Handle Packaging?
For starters, wash hands your hands frequently, and continue to practice social distancing. Definitely don’t go out at all if you’re unwell!
In most cases, many businesses are promoting contactless and curb-side delivery so you can distance yourself from the delivery person.
We highly recommend you wash your hands after you receive any package.
If you are at a higher risk at contracting the virus than others, we recommend that you open and dispose of the outer packaging outside your home.
You can choose to disinfect the box, but washing your hands is going to be more effective. In extreme cases, you can quarantine the package for a day or two.
If you really want to err on the side of caution, we suggest the following steps:
- Put on gloves before touching the package
- Dispose of outer packaging outside of the home
- Minimise the contact of your package contents until you are able to place it on a stable surface. For example, a coffee table.
- Disinfect the contents and place on a different surface to dry. For example, a kitchen counter
- Disinfect the original surface that the contents were placed on (in this case, the coffee table)
- Dispose of gloves, other protective equipment and disinfecting utensils
- Wash. Your. Hands. Not just when you come into contact with a package, but often and regularly.
Remember that on the way to picking up your package, you may be touching a number of things that qualify as “frequently touched surfaces.” These include an elevator button in a building or the doorknob on the front door.
Being aware of your contact with these surfaces is just as important—and maybe more important—than the way you handle packages!