GENEVA – The U.N. postal agency on Wednesday said flight suspensions linked to the COVID-19 outbreak have disrupted delivery services to China, with at least eight countries holding letters and parcels.
“The spread of the novel coronavirus has led to the suspension of airline flights and is impacting postal operations,” the Switzerland-based Universal Postal Union said in a statement.
“UPU is carefully monitoring the situation and working closely with postal operators to hopefully overcome these challenges,” the statement said.
Asked if there were any precedents, a spokesperson likened the current situation to the transport disruption caused by the volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010.
“It’s not just a postal issue, it’s a trade issue,” the spokesperson added, pointing out that the deliveries affected e-commerce services.
Swiss Post on Wednesday became the latest to announce it would no longer take post destined for China.
“Swiss Post is currently only able to use about a third of the capacity it actually requires for deliveries to China. Consequently, Swiss Post is no longer accepting any letters or parcels addressed to China,” it said.
Denmark, Georgia, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Singapore and Spain have already notified UPU they are halting deliveries.
The U.S. Postal Service meanwhile has said it will no longer handle post transiting to China from other countries.
In a note to UPU members, China Post earlier said it was safe to accept post from China, citing medical advice that coronaviruses “do not survive” for long on objects.
But it said safety precautions had still been taken, including disinfecting post offices and conducting delivery “via non face-to-face methods,” such as lockers.
“Therefore, delays should be expected in the processing and delivery of inbound mail, and it may not be possible to provide written proof of delivery,” it said.
China Post also said transit mail it was receiving destined for Central Asia, North Korea and Vietnam also had been impacted.
It said this would be stored and delivered once transport links resume.
The UPU, which is based in the Swiss capital Bern, has 192 member countries and is the main international forum for co-operation between different postal operators.