In March, Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown that means people across the UK are now required to stay at home and are only permitted to leave for a few key reasons.
These reasons are food shopping (but should be limited to infrequent trips) collecting medication, going to work (only if you are a keyworker) and going for a once daily walk or run.
The government has also closed all non-essential shops, public spaces and services: but how will these measures impact the postal service?
Will Royal Mail work as normal?
On Tuesday 24 March the Royal Mail issued updated guidance on their services saying that it will remain “open for business” during the ongoing lockdown.
The statement said: “The postal service is a key part of the UK’s infrastructure. The delivery of parcels and letters is a way of keeping the country together, businesses operating, and helping many people who may not have the option to leave their homes.
“We continue to work hard to collect, process and deliver as much mail and parcels as possible in difficult circumstances,” it adds.
Shane O’Riordain, managing director of marketing, regulation and corporate affairs at Royal Mail told The Independent: “ The mail is still scheduled to be collected and delivered as normal. This is a fast moving situation and local service levels may at times be impacted by local absences."
The Royal Mail also says it has contingency plans in place if the situation changes further: “We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure mail is kept moving.
“The scale, vast network and business continuity expertise of our organisation means we have extensive experience in being able to quickly deploy plans so we continue to provide customers with access to our collection and delivery services, and their mail.”
What about international postage?
Given 20 per cent of the world is now under lockdown measures, similar to or stricter than those in the UK, and international travel has been halted for Brits, it is understandable that you might be concerned about international post.
But the Royal Mail says it is “working with airline and postal/courier partners across the globe to maintain services” at the current time and it will continue to accept and process global mail.
This includes services to the USA which it says “remain operational”.
For country by country updates, you can visit the Royal Mail International Incidents Bulletin.
Are they implementing extra hygiene measures?
Public Health England continues to suggest that the best way to stop the spread of coronavirus (apart from following social isolation guidelines) is to wash your hands regularly and ensure that you don’t touch your face with unclean hands.
But should we be handling post that has been through the postal service and come into contact with lots of different people when we can’t be sure of individual hygiene standards?
The Royal Mail reassures customers that they have adopted revised health and safety measures in line with PHE advise.
O’Riordain says: “From today we have introduced a range of new social distancing measures aimed at offering further protection for our colleagues. Standard ways of working are being revised to ensure that, wherever possible, colleagues stay two metres apart.
“We are implementing a new rule that means there will only be one person in a Royal Mail delivery vehicle at any one time. Processes have been further reviewed to minimise the passing of work between colleagues. And we are calling for the washing of hands when colleagues enter and leave Royal Mail buildings, as well as at regular times during the day.”
"In order to protect further both our people and customers, we are temporarily not handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures. [They] will instead log the name of the person accepting the item, and can sign on their behalf. This will apply to all deliveries that require a signature.
"We have good supplies of soap and paper towels. We are also providing disposable latex gloves, available on request. We are keeping colleagues informed through notices, and internal TV updates."
What about deliveries for people self-isolating?
O’Riordain says: "For all customers (including those who are self-isolating) where we need to deliver any parcel that won’t fit through their letterbox, we will place their item at their door. Having knocked on the door, we will then step aside to a safe distance while they retrieve their item. This will ensure the item is delivered securely rather than being left outside.”
“If they are unable to come to the door at all we will issue a ‘Something for You’ card, advising of other ways they can arrange to get their item. For example, by getting a friend or family member to collect the parcel from our local Customer Service Point on their behalf. In this situation, and to keep their mail as secure as possible, they will need to bring along the card we left and a form of ID in the name of the person the item is addressed to.