Up until February, there wasn’t a single soul that didn’t feel excited and ecstatic upon receiving parcels, packages, or food ordered online. Fast forward one month and everything from stepping out to receiving these once-highly-awaited packages has only induced fear—all thanks to the covid-19 pandemic.
Amidst the government’s strict instructions of a complete lockdown and of practicing social distancing by staying indoors, the only option that’s left to meet our day-to-day requirements is getting the necessities home delivered.
Food, groceries, or simply some fashion retail therapy—everything is at your disposal, the only condition being, you can’t step out of the house. While the idea of receiving everything at your doorstep seems comforting in times of this lockdown, the fear of getting infected through these parcels seems to be on the rise.
So, we decided to clear the air by asking three health experts to tell us whether you can get covid-19 through an online package. Their answer? Well, the chances are low, because:
The virus rarely spreads through surface contact
“Covid-19 spreads mostly when an infected person directly coughs or sneezes at you in close proximity. In case of delivery packages, the chances of transmission through surface contact increase only when you touch the parcel after an infected person has sneezed and coughed at the parcel and you handled it followed by touching your nose, mouth and eyes,” points out Dr. Samrat D. Shah, managing director, internal medicine specialist, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai.
Not to mention, companies are taking precautions
“At this point in time, I’d like to think that even e-commerce companies and take-away eating joints are being cautious about the health and hygiene of their employees,” explains Dr. Vikas Maurya, head of department, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.
“No one is encouraging an employee with ill health or having symptoms of the covid-19 infection such as cough, fever, and breathing problems to come to work. So, in all probability, the person who comes to deliver your package is going to be healthy,” he adds.
Shipping of products takes time
“Since the parcels are shipped over a period of several days, the survivability of coronavirus on the surfaces is poor,” says Dr. Vikrant Shah, consulting physician, intensivist, and infectious disease specialist, Zen Multi-speciality Hospital, Chembur.
Home delivery is much safer than stepping out
“Since, there is a complete lockdown and people are practicing social distancing, stepping out isn’t a good idea. Online shopping can ensure that people will stay at home, and stay away from the ones who are infected. Going out for shopping may expose them to the virus and can increase their chances of suffering from it. Thus, online shopping can be done,” adds Dr Shah.
But you’ve still got to be careful because…
1. Chances of a human error are always there
E-commerce companies and restaurants surely have made huge promises about proper sanitisation and careful handling of their products.
However, there’s always a chance of human error and you cannot assume that coronavirus won’t be found in packages ever.
2. The SARS-CoV-2 virus can happily live on the surfaces
“Because this is a novel virus, studies are still being carried out by several virologists to determine the properties of this virus. But, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, coronavirus can remain in the air for 3 hours, on surfaces such as cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastics and steel surfaces for around 3-4 days,” says Dr Maurya.
However, he mentions that the life of the virus depends on a variety of factors apart from just the material of the surface it lives on. For instance:
Higher temperatures have been observed to destabilize the virus and hamper its growth.
Higher humidity has been observed to encourage the virus’ stay on a particular surface.
Ample ventilation, where windows are open and there’s an adequate fresh-air supply, ensures that the virus can’t thrive for too long.
Taking precautions can be your best bet
The chances of your package infecting you are meek, but not zero. This is exactly why Dr Maurya urges everyone to take these precautions while receiving an online package: