19 Aug 2020

Covid-19: You can lick your envelopes without fear - NZ Post

From Checkpoint, 6:15 pm on 19 August 2020

Some Auckland courier customers may expect delivery delays, after New Zealand Post confirmed two workers at its operations centre in East Tamaki returned positive Covid-19 tests.

Both employees have since moved to managed quarantine and their close work contacts have been in self-isolation awaiting test results. All other employees at the site are being tested.

The second employee to be confirmed was last at work on Friday, and was not suffering any symptoms at the time.

The centre has been deep cleaned and all workers are now wearing masks and further spaced out.

"We've reviewed the video footage and they don't appear to have come into prolonged close contact with each other over that period," NZ Post chief executive Mark Stewart told Checkpoint. 

"It's unclear at this stage whether this was a quick transmission in the wider community… there's no evidence at this stage it was within our site but that is still to be confirmed."

Stewart said he was not aware of the workers socialising or being in contact outside of work, but the Ministry of Health was looking into that. 

"This is a big warehouse operation. It's roughly the same size of six football fields, high ceilings, very good ventilation with big transport doors," he said.

"We'd have roughly 300 people working there across the 24/7 operation. So typically no more than 100-120 at one time. As a result, an individual would typically only work closely with a small number of other people on each shift.

"As soon as the government changed to the level 3 notice, we moved immediately to one metre separation and face masks. Following Ministry of Health guidance [after the first positive case] we've actually moved to two metres at the site, until we get all our people Covid tested, which is happening at the site over the next 24 hours."

NZ Post

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

He said medical advice NZ Post had received and from the medical advice of the global postal community showed there was no evidence to suggest a heightened risk of transmission across mail or parcels. 

"We would be doing things differently if that was the case."

While the positive cases are having no impact on the delivery of letters to letterboxes, since they are sorted at a different facility, courier deliveries could take slightly longer.

"In terms of our courier service, typically that gets delivered very reliably overnight. That will have an extra day added to it in Auckland for the next period. 

"And the reason for that is because of the basically the loss of productivity from moving from one metre separation to two metre separation."

Stewart said it is understandable people might feel anxious about the virus spreading, but the official medical advice shows no transmission in mail order parcels, so you don't need to worry about licking the envelope. 

"There's no evidence [of the disease transmitting through a licked envelope], I mean people can take their own decisions in mind in terms of what they do, but that's not the medical advice we've been given."