VOA News By Lisa Schlein
GENEVA – The Switzerland-based Universal Postal Union says the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the United States to suspend delivery of international mail to nearly two dozen countries. They include the Cayman Islands, Honduras, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Botswana.
The U.S. Postal Service is asking customers to refrain from sending items to the affected countries (see list below) as it is unable to currently accept that mail. The Universal Postal Union, which coordinates mail delivery policies worldwide, says the U.S. decision is not political.
UPU spokesman David Dadge told VOA if the planes are not flying, you cannot move the mail. He said this is a problem facing all countries, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing postal operators from delivering the mail.
“As a result, they have had to come to the UPU and announce the fact that there have been suspensions. Nobody is being blamed for it. It is not the fault of anybody. It is the impact of this pandemic and how it has had an impact across the world on virtually every aspect of our modern way of life,” he said.
Dadge said national emergency measures such as lockdowns, social distancing and quarantining air travelers are making it very difficult to move the mail. He said the pandemic has caused many countries to reduce their postal staffs, so the processing of incoming mail becomes problematic.
He said the difficulty in delivering the mail in wealthy countries pales in comparison to the situation in developing countries where fixed addresses often do not exist. He said responding to the emergency humanitarian needs of those countries will be very challenging as the coronavirus pandemic takes root in those places.
“Obviously, if you are looking to deliver food, you have a supply chain that probably involves planes. And, planes are at the heart of this problem, as well as they are at the heart of the postal problem. The fact is you need your supply chain to deliver the food to the vulnerable people who need it and yet that chain is broken at the moment because of the cancellations in flights,” Dadge said.
The Universal Postal Union reports a 10 percent drop in terms of tonnage of mail delivered worldwide between Jan. 23 and March 23, compared to the same period last year. It describes the impact of COVID-19 on trade as calamitous.