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China’s coronavirus crisis hits global flow of letters and parcels

The Universal Postal Union said the suspension of flights because of the virus ‘is going to impact the delivery of mail for the foreseeable future’.

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A child wearing a face mask cries as he waits to board a plane for Beijing in Hong Kong (Ng Han Guan/AP)

A child wearing a face mask cries as he waits to board a plane for Beijing in Hong Kong (Ng Han Guan/AP)

A child wearing a face mask cries as he waits to board a plane for Beijing in Hong Kong (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Postal operators in the US, China and elsewhere have said the suspension of flights to slow the spread of a deadly new coronavirus is having a major impact on global flows of letters and parcels.

The United States Postal Service informed its counterparts around the world that it is “experiencing significant difficulties” in dispatching letters, parcels and express mail to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, according to a note seen by the Associated Press.

It said this is “because most of its supplier airlines have suspended their flights” to those destinations.

As a consequence and “starting immediately”, the USPS said it can no longer accept items destined for China, Hong Kong and Macau “until sufficient transport capacity becomes available”.

Coronavirus: confirmed cases
(PA Graphics)

In a separate note seen by AP, Singapore Post told its global counterparts that it is no longer accepting letters, parcels and express mail items destined for China “until sufficient transport capacity becomes available”.

The notes were shared with postal services around the world via the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a United Nations agency with headquarters in Switzerland that is a main forum for postal co-operation between its 192 member countries.

In a statement to AP, the UPU said the suspension of flights because of the virus “is going to impact the delivery of mail for the foreseeable future”.

It added: “But it is hopefully temporary.

“The Universal Postal Union is carefully monitoring the operational situation, and is in constant contact with postal operators to ensure any backlog is cleared in the shortest possible time.”

The Chinese mail service China Post said it is disinfecting postal offices, processing centres and vehicles to ensure the virus does not travel via the mail and to protect postal staff.

The virus does “not survive for long on objects. It is therefore safe to receive postal items from China”, said a China Post note transmitted via the UPU.

Workers pack bottles of alcohol disinfectant in a factory in Suining in south-west China’s Sichuan province
Workers pack bottles of alcohol disinfectant in a factory in Suining in south-west China’s Sichuan province (Chinatopix Via AP)

Letters, parcels and express mail that do still make it to China will be delivered “via non-face-to-face methods”, the note said.

It said the crisis is also impacting post that transits China to other destinations.

The affected countries include North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, the note said.

It said China Post will temporarily store undelivered transit mail “and will transport it to the destination countries when these transport options are once again available”.

“Delays should be expected in transport and delivery during this period,” it said.

South Africa’s postal service has warned of delays in receiving letters or parcels from China because of flight suspensions.

In Austria, the APA news agency said the Austrian postal service is no longer sending letters or packages to China but that Austrians can still receive mail from China.

In Sweden, PostNord also said letters can no longer be sent from there to China.

PA