Worried that your latest online delivery might give you covid-19? Well, listen to these doctors and relax

Is that seemingly-harmless parcel capable of infecting you with the covid-19? Not really, say leading doctors from India.
When you go grocery shopping, make sure you don't pick up products that contain preservatives. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Sonakshi Kohli Updated: 10 May 2021, 21:05 pm IST
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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. 

Also, Read: How I got my 74-yr-old mother to practice social distancing in the wake of covid-19

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. 

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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.

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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.

Also, Read: Can getting food home delivered give you covid-19? We got a nutritionist to answer all this and more for you

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.

coronavirus from delivery packages
Even the healthiest item on the menu of your favourite can put your health at risk when it comes to coronavirus. So eat at home and stay safe. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

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. 

Also, Read: Coronavirus can linger in the air and on surfaces for hours, says study

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. 

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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:

  • Maintain a safe distance of at least a meter when receiving your package from the delivery executive.
  • Make sure that the delivery executive is wearing a mask and gloves and does not have any symptoms of the covid-19 flu, namely, coughing, sneezing, fever, breathing problems before taking the package.
  • After receiving your package, immediately, wash your hands thoroughly with soap for 20 seconds or just use a sanitizer.
  • If possible, try and leave the package alone in a distant/well-ventilated corner of the house for 1-2 days or at least 4-6 hours instead of opening it immediately. This can allow enough time to break the life cycle of the virus on the surface of your package.
  • If not, sanitize the surface of your package with a disinfectant before opening it.

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