The spread of the novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) began impacting the mail system – and philately – before the illness was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11.
In late February, organizers of Milanofil 2020 stamp show in Milan, Italy – a region hit especially hard by COVID-19 – announced the event would be postponed. While it was originally scheduled for March 27-28, no new dates have been announced.
Since mid-February, China’s postal service has been disinfecting all of its outgoing mail with a diluted bleach-based solution. When bags containing Chinese mail are opened, an odour resembling diluted chlorine can be noticed, according to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, whose mail-carrying members recently expressed concern about the disinfectant.
On March 6, 25 mail carriers invoked their right not to enter a postal station in Peterborough, Ont.; however, Minister Anita Anand, who’s responsible for Canada Post, ultimately ruled there was no danger.
As of March 11, Canada Post lists several international service alerts related to COVID-19, which is causing “significant delays” between Canada and at least five other countries, including China, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Macao and Italy, where that country’s postal service – Poste Italiane – has closed its facilities.
The virus does “not survive for long on objects,” according to a statement issued by China Post through the Universal Postal Union (UPU). “It is therefore safe to receive postal items from China.”
The cancellation of flights worldwide “is going to impact the delivery of mail for the foreseeable future,” the UPU told the Associated Press in another statement.
As of March 11, COVID-19 has hit more than 120 countries with nearly 125,000 cases and about 4,300 deaths worldwide.