Australia Post delivering much-needed medicines and more

Australia is one of the countries that has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 relatively well after introducing travel restrictions, social distancing and extensive testing. The first measures against mass gatherings were introduced on 13 March, the day the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled.

By the end of March, no more than two people were allowed to be together outside of households – and people over 70 and those with chronic health conditions that made them vulnerable to the virus were being advised to stay at home.

Australia Post found itself in a critical role, keeping households supplied with essential goods, especially medicines. In any one year there are more than 465 million individual patient visits to community pharmacies around the country.

Following the government decision to allocate AUS$ 25 million to fund home medicine services during the pandemic, the Post quickly set up its Pharmacy Home Delivery Service at the end of March.

Since then, pharmacies around the country have offered free next-day delivery of prescription medication to vulnerable customers. The contactless deliveries are in line with current coronavirus social distancing guidelines.

The initiative was developed in partnership with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and is also open to non-members of the guild. Those availing of the service can receive medication and other essential supplies weighing up to 500 grams once per month through the Post’s Express Network. Pharmacies may claim back the full cost of postage through a government rebate.

Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Australia Post, Christine Holgate, said the coronavirus was having a significant impact on the lives of all Australians and that it was vital to make home delivery quick and easy for local pharmacies.

“We know so many people rely on their local pharmacy for essential medication, particularly the vulnerable and elderly who may not be able to visit their local store. Making delivery to people’s homes is critical at this time,” she said.

At the beginning of the crisis, Australia Post put together a pandemic response team to look for pandemic-specific opportunities. In another partnership with supermarket chain Woolworths, the postal operator supported the launch and delivery of the Woolworths “Basics Box” containing meals, snacks and a few essential items.

By delivering a box of groceries with set contents, it was possible to connect vulnerable customers with more essential items, faster. The initiative was specially geared towards those with little experience of online shopping.

Australia Post has found other ways to contribute to the health and wellbeing of the general public, according to Gary Starr, Executive General Manager, Business, Government and International.

“Australia is a big country and our air network was significantly diminished by the crisis. We worked hard with Qantas to maintain the distribution of blood products from Red Cross centres to hospitals.”

The Post also stepped in to deliver blood pressure monitors to pregnant women and other people in need of regular monitoring, to save them a trip to a clinic. “Because we were anticipating an extended lockdown, we were able to stand up services quickly, leveraging our capacity,” Mr Starr said.

In addition, Australia Post has helped support other health related organizations in the distribution of their products. These include items such as hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and antibody testing kits.

The UPU is working to track, highlight and analyze how Posts are connecting citizens with essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more behind-the-scenes information on how Australia Post organized its response to coronavirus, see the UPU commentary. To see how other Posts have contributed to their communities during the crisis or to submit a social or financial services initiative led by your Post, please visit the dedicated web page.