Coronavirus and Avian Flu Outbreaks in China – Statements From Royal Mail Group, Department of Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) and Further Advice
This is an update further to LTB No. 033/2020, issued on 22 January 2020.
Royal Mail Group Statement:
Royal Mail Group issued the attached advice on their intranet site on Friday morning 24 January and stated that the Business is monitoring the Coronavirus outbreak situation in China and will issue more updates as appropriate following advice from Public Health England (PHE).
PHE maintain that the risk to the UK population has been assessed as low and should this assessment change, the NHS is well prepared. Royal Mail has advised that as with all mail handling and all other roles, good hand and personal hygiene should be maintained to minimise the risk of any infection of colds and flu, which are very common at this time of year. Hands should always be washed before eating and any gloves worn for mail handling should be washed frequently. Royal Mail has decided that although the risk of infection is very low, while the Coronavirus situation is developing, disposable gloves will be made available to anyone handling large numbers of parcels or letters originating from China who would like to wear them as an additional precaution. Any member wishing to be provided with the disposable gloves should request them from their manager. Details of how they are to be ordered have been provided to Office Managers and are contained in the attached Royal Mail statement.
The latest news update and statement from DHSC and PHE jointly is attached. They confirm continued enhanced monitoring of the Coronavirus situation in Wuhan, China and are ready to put in place proportionate, precautionary measures to protect the UK public. All direct flights from Wuhan, China to the UK are being met and advice and support to travellers is being provided if they feel unwell. The team involved includes medical inspectors, doctors, admin support and a team leader. They will check for symptoms of Coronavirus and provide information to all passengers about symptoms and what to do if they become ill. Mandarin and Cantonese language support will be available and leaflets will be available to all passengers.
DHSC has issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis of Coronavirus, and PHE has developed a diagnostic test, making the UK one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease.
The UK is well prepared for new diseases and the UK’s approach is kept under constant review. UK public health measures are world-leading and the NHS is well prepared to manage and treat new diseases.
Despite the current reports of 2000 confirmed cases and 50 deaths in China and confirmed cases of 15 other places outside China, DHSC and PHE confirm that the risk to the UK population has been assessed as low, based on the emerging evidence regarding case numbers, potential sources and human to human transmission. To date there are no confirmed cases of this new infection in the UK.
Can you catch Coronavirus from Parcels and Packages Posted from China to the UK?
According to BBC health and science correspondents Dr. Michelle Roberts and Biologist James Gallagher along with the US Department of Health in Minnesota, the answer is no, there is no evidence this is a risk. These Medical experts say the Coronavirus can only survive on inanimate objects for a few hours, maybe a day or two in perfect laboratory conditions and parcels and packages from China take several days to arrive. Some diseases can spread through surfaces contaminated by people coughing or sneezing on them. It has not been shown this new Coronavirus can do that. Even if it could, there would still be questions about whether international shipping would be a major problem. Cold viruses tend to survive less than 24 hours outside the human body although Norovirus (a severe stomach bug) can last for months outside the body. The most reassuring fact so far is that Coronavirus cases seem to require close contact with an infected person – say, a family member or healthcare worker – in order to spread. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses such as Pneumonia and Bronchitis. The viruses are in the respiratory tract and they spread mainly through the air via coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact and touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes after touching an object or surface with the virus on it, before washing one’s hands.
Maintain Good Basic Hygiene
The NHS and doctors advise everyone to maintain good basic hand and personal hygiene standards, washing hands regularly to minimise the risk of any infection as this virus outbreak develops.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer