As more countries impose partial and full lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, more people are likely to turn to online shopping as the ability to physically shop for goods becomes increasingly limited.
Is it now time to disinfect packages and mail from services like Amazon, and other local services such as Noon, when it arrives on the doorstep? Researchers and experts give competing answers.
COVID-19 can last up to three days on certain materials, a mid-March report from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UCLA, and Princeton University found.
A study by the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17 suggested that the virus could live up to a day on cardboard.
According to the World Health Organization, the risk of transmitting the virus through commercial goods is very low.
“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the WHO said in its Q&A on coronaviruses published last month.
In places like the United Arab Emirates, where a 24-hour restriction on movement has been imposed, except for essential tasks like going to the supermarket or pharmacy, the likelihood of people ordering perishable food items online through apps like Instafood and Amazon increases.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Q&A on coronaviruses, there is no evidence to suggest that food, food containers, or food packaging are linked to transmission of COVID-19.
“Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the four key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill,” the FDA advised.
“If you are concerned about contamination of food or food packaging, wash your hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from the packaging, before you prepare food for eating and before you eat,” the FDA added in its guidelines.
According to the CDC, it may be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own face, but added that “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging,” the CDC added.
However, Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president of global corporate affairs, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “there is evidence that the virus can live on packaging for some period of time."
According to Carney, Amazon has been advising customers to wipe down packages with disinfectant to ease their mind. If customers still feel unease over handling their packages, Amazon has advised for people to leave the package outside for a time before bringing the package indoors and opening it.