31 January 2020. Following the announcement yesterday evening by the WHO declaring the coronavirus a global health emergency we have been asked by a number of our customers whether goods coming from China during this viral outbreak are safe or whether there is a risk of infection being transmitted by this route.
There is a lot of information circulating on social media at present regarding this outbreak, particularly in China. Some of the information is accurate, some useful, but sadly, as is often the case in these situations a lot is misleading, misguided, simply untrue and in some cases hysterical.
So what is the real truth about people in the UK (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) contracting the corona virus from contact with goods which originated in China. This is perhaps of particular concern for those faced with unloading one of the thousands of containers which arrive in the UK each day from China.
The honest answer at present is nobody knows whether transmission via this route is possible. The virus is too new and the research simply hasn’t been done yet. However we can take some comfort by looking at the behavior of other corona viruses including the common cold, SARS and MURS viruses about which we know a lot. Generally these viruses cannot survive long outside a host body and typically will die within 1-2 hours on a hard surface and even the hardiest will be inactive within 2 days. The perceived wisdom therefore form expert bodies such as the Centre For Disease Control (CDC) Atlanta USA is that the risk of catching this virus from goods posted from China (by air or by sea) is vanishingly small and probably zero. The one caveat to this is of course live animals (shipped deliberately or by accident) who could possible harbour and transmit the virus.
At the present time we are not aware of any plans by the UK government (or any other government) to start fumigating containers on arrival and there seems no logical reason why they should do so. To date there has been no recorded transmission by this route and both consumers and handlers of goods from China in the UK should be reassured that there is no perceivable risk of infection from this.