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Here’s how to handle parcels in the middle of a pandemic

Make sure you’re not getting more than just parcels with every delivery

While we can’t speak for everyone, there’s a fair possibility that many people across the globe have come to rely far more on courier services because of social distancing protocols in response to the pandemic. The likes of Shopee, Lazada, SM and their shopping app, Amazon and eBay have seen record volumes of deliveries in the months since lockdown measures were implemented, and given how massively convenient and easy online shopping has become, it could end up being a habit that sticks.Still, this doesn’t mean that people are perfectly isolated from others or that the things we order don’t change hands a few times before landing on our doorstep. While online shops are at pains to assure us that safety measures have been integrated at every step of the delivery process, that cannot excuse complacency.

Can SARS-CoV-2 survive on deliveries?

The Department of Health (DOH) notes that current knowledge pegs the coronavirus’ ability to survive on surfaces as lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on ambient conditions, type of material, and other factors. Both the DOH and the United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that there have been no cases reported of  a person being infected by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags, but with a new mutation of the virus beginning to spread across the globe, it’s always best to prepare for the worst.

What the heck is a coronavirus?

For all the recent media attention SARS-CoV-2 has gotten, it’s just one of several coronaviruses that have been documented since the 1960s. It’s frighteningly virulent and can result in unwanted side effects even if you survive it. But it’s “just another” coronavirus all the same, and seven of these are known to be infectious to humans.

Like other types of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 contains ribonucleic acid (RNA) and nucleoproteins in its core; RNA is a “blueprint” that allows the virus to produce other elements necessary to the virus, while nucleoproteins fill out the virus’s structure and allow it to replicate. Both are  surrounded by a “viral envelope,” a layer of fatty substance that protects the virus, on which are embedded “spike proteins” that give the corona-virus its name and allow it to quite literally break other cells open for infection.

How to get away from COVID

Sanitation essentially involves breaking down that viral envelope, disabling the virus’s ability to replicate and even survive. This can be accomplished several ways:

  • Soap and water

This one’s a classic for a reason—as the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

Soap molecules disrupt that layer of fatty tissue surrounding the virus, breaking the cell’s integrity and preventing it from replicating or doing any more harm. There is evidence that soap may be the most effective means to sanitize hands of viral loads, more so than alcohol and other disinfectants, though the latter are of course easier to use on short notice. 

  • UV-C (ultraviolet light)

Though leaving things to cook out in sunlight can help kill most viruses, we’re specifically talking about UV-C radiation which is a more potent wavelength that can cause serious damage to your own tissues as well as that of viruses exposed to it. This is a frequency of ultraviolet light that is immediately filtered out by our ozone layer which is why you don’t really encounter it in nature and have to generate it in a controlled environment, like those UV sanitizing boxes you see for sale online.

  • Alcohol and hand sanitizers

Let’s get this out of the way: alcohol works BUT you need to have a concentration of at least 70% for it to be effective; diluting it beyond that could render it ineffective. Leave on surfaces for at least 30 seconds to ensure that it’s finished its job.

Either ethyl or isopropyl will work as both types of alcohol are capable of killing viruses, but isopropyl alcohol, the kind you should never drink, was found to be slightly more efficient overall. 

  • Bleach

Under no circumstances should you drink this stuff. Ever. NEVER DRINK BLEACH, it will hurt you.

In concentrations of 5.25–8.25%, sodium hypochlorite is a perfectly feasible method of disinfecting surfaces due to how strongly corrosive bleach is in pure form. Unexpired bleach (yes it does expire) can be diluted down to 0.1% concentration and still kill coronaviruses, among other things.

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