Post Office: Should you lick envelopes?

Package and letter delivery services are continuing as normal in the UK. The Post Office, Royal Mail and Parcelforce are helping people stay connected in a time of self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine.

Should you lick envelopes?

Coronavirus can be transmitted via cough and sneeze droplets.

The disease can also live for hours and days on certain types of surfaces.

American scientists researched the length of time coronavirus can survive on different surfaces.

The investigation is awaiting peer review in The New England Journal of Medicine so the results can’t yet be considered wholly accurate.

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The researchers found COVID-19 present on stainless steel and plastic for up to three days.

The virus can also live for a number of hours when airborne, 24 hours on cardboard and four hours on copper.

As the virus can also be transmitted through saliva, it’s reasonable to assume it would survive for a period of time on a licked envelope.

Instead of licking an envelope, it can be sealed with a wet sponge or cloth.

In the US, where the Democratic presidential candidate election is taking place, one state asked postal voters not to lick their envelopes shut.

Health officials don’t know exactly how long coronavirus can stay active on inanimate objects, the aforementioned study awaiting peer review offers the most relevant data so far.

Mark Dalman, an assistant professor at Kent State University who specialises in infectious diseases, suggests it’s somewhere between a day and a week.

With the possibility of the virus “absolutely” remaining alive and infectious on an envelope or an envelope opener, the safest course of action is to not lick it shut.

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Royal Mail, which is still operational during the lockdown, has introduced social distancing measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

These include not handing over the signature device to people when delivering packages.

Shane O’Riordain, Royal Mail’s Managing Director of Marketing, Regulation And Corporate Affairs, said: “For all customers (including those who are self-isolating) where we need to deliver any parcel that won’t fit through their letterbox, we will place their item at their door.

“Having knocked on the door, we will then step aside to a safe distance while they retrieve their item.”

He added: “In line with guidance from the UK’s Chief Medical Officer and public health authorities, we are advising colleagues that good hand hygiene is the first and most important line of defence.

“We have taken a number of measures and provided preventative guidance to our colleagues.

“This includes promoting regular handwashing with soap and water.”

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