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Could the Covid-19 Virus transmit on goods imported from China?

Covid-19 Update: 28 February 2020

We have received a number of enquiries from concerned customers - and there have been several rumours in the media – regarding the possibility of transmission of Coronavirus 2019-nCoV to other regions on manufactured goods that may have been contaminated during manufacture in China. 


corona virus image singleNote: On 11 February 2020, the WHO announced that the disease would now be referred to as COVID-19, and that the new virus was now named SARS-CoV-2.


Summary:

This question relates to whether a Lakeland garment or packaging produced in any of our factories in Asia could be contaminated during manufacture and then be transported to other regions and infect those unpacking or using them.

All the evidence we have found suggests that whilst transmission of the virus - SARS CoV-2 as we must now call it - on goods exported to other regions from China is theoretically possible, the probability of it occurring is very low. Only in the case of very short freight times and if temperatures are maintained at low levels is there a possibility of transmission in this way. There is no evidence that such transmission has occurred to date and all the major parties such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) confirm this.

We would however recommend reviewing the latest information available, please see links to the WHO adn CDC sites below.

In addition and in accordance with guidance issued by authorities in China, Lakeland has initiated a number of procedures in manufacturing plants in Asia to minimise the possibility of contamination of products during manufacture. A summary of these procedures can be found at the bottom of this blog.


Below are the latest known facts about this question:

  1. The known routes of transmission for the virus are:
  • Transmission in contaminated airborne droplets resulting from coughs and sneezes
  • Close personal contact (this could include touching of skin as a result of shaking hands etc)
  • Touching an object (such as a door handle or bed rail) that is contaminated
  • Faecal contamination (rarer – but obviously a possible issue in healthcare of the worst affected patients)
  1. Touching objects is the key factor in answering this question
    If an infected person touches a surfaceand it becomes contaminated, the virus is able to survive on that surface and could infect another person who touches it and then touches their face and mouth. This is why regular washing of hands and avoiding touching your face is an important part of hygiene and containing spread of the virus.

    This does of course mean that a garment or packaging that has been delivered at arrival ports or distribution centres, or garments actually in use – perhaps worn during decontamination processes for example - can be contaminated after arrival. The virus could survive on it and it could then infect a wearer during donning or doffing or infect others that might come into contact with it.
    For this reason appropriate processes for donning, use, doffing and disposal are vital. For obvious reasons garments should not be re-used, and DO NOT remove gloves before removing a protective garment.
  2. However, the question is if products produced in China are contaminated during manufacture, could the virus survive the journey to other regions and then infect people there? So the key issue is how long the virus can survive on a surface.
  3. The following are statements on this issue from various key sources.
    Please note that this information was correct at the time of writing (28 February). The situation is changing almost on a daily basis and may be updated as knowledge develops. We have therefore included links to the sources and we recommend referring to the latest information available.
  • From the CDC:
    The CDC states that the suggestion that transmission could occur on imported goods is a myth. At the time of writing the statement included the following:-

"In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods."

Click here for the latest information from CDC.

  • From WHO:
    "Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment)."
    and,
    "The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low." 

    Click here for latest information from WHO

  • From export.Org.UK:

    "Due to the transmission methods recorded thus far, and the relatively low environmental stability of Coronaviruses, it is unlikely that imported goods such as imported foods or consumer goods and toys, tools, computers, clothes or shoes may be sources of an infection with the new type of Coronavirus, according to the current state of knowledge".

    Click here for the latest information from CDC 

  • From the Journal of Hospital Infection
    Finally, the Journal of Hospital Infection published an analysis in Science Direct on 6th February looking at work to assess the persistence of these types of viruses on surfaces – in other words analysing how long they can survive. The full report can be found here. 

The summary states the following:-

“The analysis of 22 studies reveals that human coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus or endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days, but can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.”

And…

“On different types of materials it can remain infectious for from 2 hours up to 9 days. A higher temperature such as 30°C or 40°C reduced the duration of persistence of highly pathogenic MERS-CoV, TGEV and MHV".

In other words, the conclusions must be:-

  1. Maximum survival time on a surface may be up to 9 days – but this is unlikely unless temperatures are maintained at quite low levels.
  2. At normal room temperatures the survival time is much lower – probably measured in hours rather than days.
  3. The virus can be quickly eliminated by the use of surface disinfectants.

Most goods exported internationally travel by sea freight. Freight times are:

  • Asia to Europe: 4 to 5 weeks
  • China to Australia: 6 to 12 days
  • China to North America: 4 to 5 weeks.

Air freight is quicker but is still likely to be 1 to 2 weeks.

Conclusion:

Whilst there is a possibility of transmission of the virus on coveralls in use and suitable measures are required to minimise this risk, the possibility of goods being infected during manufacture in Asia and then transmitted to other regions is very low.

All the evidence we have found suggests that whilst transmission of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV - or SARS CoV-2 as we must now call it -  on goods exported to other regions from China is theoretically possible, the probability is very low. Only in the case of very short freight times and if temperatures are maintained at low levels is there a possibility of transmission  in this way. There are no known cases of this occuring, no evidence it has happened and the major authorities such as the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control confirm this.

However, for those concerned we would always recommend reviewing the latest information using the WHO and CDC links above or any other reputable sources of information.


What action has Lakeland taken to minimise the possibility of contamination of protective clothing manufactured in Lakeland facilities?

The Chinese authorities have issued numerous documents and requirements in the effort to contain and minimise spread of the virus. These are quite detailed, but the following is a summary of the procedures initiated by Lakeland to minimise the possibility of contamination by SARS-CoV-2 of products manufactured in Lakeland  facilities:-

  1. Entry to the plant by visitors can only be gained following official approval, sterilisation and temperature check
  1. Visiting contractors are allowed only in designated areas. Once work is complete these areas are sterilised
  1. For all factory operators:-
    • Body temperature is checked twice daily on entering and leaving the plant
    • Staff are required to monitor body temperature at home and to stay away if high
  1. Shift systems have been revised to limit numbers during breaks / lunch and staff are advised to keep close contact during breaks to a minimum.
  1. Each department is issued with sterilisation equipment and required to conduct sterilisation twice daily
  1. Any public areas are sterilised twice daily
  1. Masks are issued to each operator and training on correct fit and wearing has been provided
  1. Incoming materials and components are sterilised on arrival and before entering the plant
  2. General training on best hygiene procedures has been provided to all staff
  1. When possible company business is conducted only via e-mail, phones or other digital communication methods so contact between departments and possible  external sources of contamination is minimised.

 

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