Disinfect Christmas parcels and send cards early, medics advise


Disinfecting parcels and sending cards early are among scientists' recommendations for those wanting to take extra coronavirus precautions this Christmas.

Medical experts have said the risk of spreading coronavirus through the post is "really low" as laboratory experiments suggest it can live on packaging materials like cardboard for a maximum of 24 hours.

Research published by Australia's national science agency CSIRO in October showed the virus can last up to four weeks on mobile phone screens and banknotes, but it has a much shorter survival on porous surfaces like paper.

Dr Lena Ciric, who specialises in molecular biology and described her work as "looking at where microbes lurk", recommended sending gifts to family and friends "at the start of December" so they have time to quarantine parcels for "a few extra days".

"If grandmas are worried, they can always wipe things down and then it should be totally fine," she added.

Dr Ciric, who is an environmental engineering lecturer at UCL, said coronavirus thrives in "cold and dry" conditions like warehouses and trucks where parcels are held – but the transit time will make a "big difference" to the virus' survival.

She said: "The likelihood that a gift or card sent in the post by an infected person would have enough virus on it to cause an infection is really low.

"I think chances are there's not going to be enough stuff on the gift at the time of contamination, let alone at the time it gets there."

Respiratory medicine specialist Professor Ashley Woodcock, who is also the University of Manchester's Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, recommended a disinfecting procedure.

He said: "If granny gets lots of Christmas cards, what is she going to do?

"If I were an old person I would be handling Christmas cards with gloves and putting them on a radiator for a few minutes."

He added: "(For receiving gifts), I think people could have a bucket with detergent in and a pair of Marigold gloves.

"They should accept the parcel wearing Marigolds and put it in an area or on a table, and wipe it down with a cloth soaked in detergent, leave it for 30 minutes, and then it's very safe."

A OnePoll survey commissioned by retailer John Lewis suggests people are already planning Christmas earlier than usual this year.

Some 70% of people said they planned to post more or the same amount of Christmas cards this year than last – a trend supported by increased card sales.

More than 60% of shoppers also plan to buy presents before December, according to the poll of 2,000 people which was conducted in October.