Can I get Covid-19 from a package delivered from China or Italy?

Italy appears to have overtaken China in terms of the rapidity of spread of the virus within a country. A lot of people have written about the potential for a Covid-19 infection from a package delivered from China. I will include Italy and refer to delivery to the USA but the same applies to most other countries.

Covid 19 collage
Covid 19 spread via packages? Photos in public domain. Collage: PoC.
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No risk

The American specialists essentially debunk the idea that you can get a Covid-19 infection from a package delivered from China. Some of these websites rely on the advice of the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Nancy Messonnier MD, who says that there is no evidence to support the transmission of Covid-19 via packages shipped from China. She argues that in general this is because of the poor survivability of the virus on surfaces. Parcels shipped from China or Italy to America would take days or weeks at ambient temperatures. She argues that in even the worst case scenario in which all ‘the ducks are aligned’ there is no hazard. Her argument essentially turns on the survivability of the virus on surfaces outside of the body.

Survivability of Covid-19 virus outside the body

I will look at this particular point in a bit more detail. The person who is more or less running the UK government’s response to Covid-19 is England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty. He is a respected person in this field of science. The next point to make is that even the top specialist admit that they are still learning about this virus.

That said, Prof Whitty has advised that the Covid-19 virus can remain on bus and train handrails up to 3 days (Express newspaper). However, he also says that the virus would be “largely gone” within 48 hours in most cases. The risk goes down over time and the timeframe is quite short as you can see. The virus is largely gone by 48 hours he believes. And by 72 hours it has gone on hard surfaces. On soft surfaces the virus lasts for a shorter period.

So we can argue that three days is about the maximum lifespan for Covid-19 virus on hard surfaces. If therefore a person in say Italy is packaging a product destined for America and that person is suffering from Covid-19 without knowing it and he sneezes on the package, it is arguable that there is a tiny risk that the virus will still be on the package when it arrives in America three days later provided an express service is used.

Infinitesimal risk

Therefore, I will not be quite so confident or as bullish as Nancy Messonnier in her assessment. I’m not an expert. I’m simply researching the point. My advice will be slightly different. It wouldn’t stop me ordering products from Italy or China even if the items were sent direct from those countries to my home. However, I think, in an act of extreme caution, I would handle the package wearing gloves and put the package into the garage or storage area for a few days to make sure that the virus was fully dead before handling it and opening it.

Amazon allow Chinese suppliers to use their platform. The products are sent direct from the supplier to the customer as I understand it. Those products might be a risk but an infinitesimally small one. Amazon prime products are supplied via depots managed and owned by Amazon in the country where the customer resides. Packages from these facilities are not a risk in my opinion.

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Cat toys and other cat products are made in China. They are bought online.

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