Safely handling imported products
The Ministry of Health advises that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from international freight is incredibly low.
To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the disease being transmitted this way.
Transmission from an inanimate object
Transmission of disease from one person to another by way of an inanimate object is called "fomite transmission”. There have been several reports of cases where fomite transmission has been suspected, but there have always been other possible routes of transmission which have not been excluded.
There have been claims in New Zealand that the virus has been detected on packaging of frozen goods. However, the detection of viral fragments on packaging is not the same as the detection of live virus.
Viral fragments can survive for long periods of time in the environment. For example, testing wastewater to look for COVID-19 in the community identifies viral fragments that may be many days old.
Although conducting studies in a real-world situation is quite difficult, there have been numerous studies conducted in laboratories which have examined how long the virus can survive on different surfaces under different conditions. The 3 main environmental conditions which influence the survival of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) are:
- humidity, and
- ultraviolet light (or sunlight).
In total darkness, at very low temperatures and at very low humidity, the virus can survive on many different surfaces for a matter of a few days. In sunlight the virus will survive for only minutes, at room temperature maybe for only hours.
New Zealand imports many items from overseas and many of these products come from countries where the rate of infection is very high. Despite the huge number of items that arrive by air, there have been no confirmed cases of transmission by fomites through this route.
The risk of COVID-19 infection from handling imported goods is extremely low.
Ministry of Health advice
The Ministry of Health is constantly updating its advice to the public about COVID-19. The current advice is to clean the surface with a common household disinfectant if you think it may be infected.
Remember to clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.