Coronavirus pandemic: global postal network proves its worth, led by trust and community knowledge

As governments look across the world for inspiration for how to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, they must not ignore the opportunities afforded by the immense supply chain operating in their own backyards.

Connected to a global chain – a network of networks – the postal supply chain involves more than 5.5 million employees, hundreds of thousands of post and sorting offices, and the movement of billions of items of mail.

Stalled by the mass cancellation of passenger flights, the international postal network is now fighting back against the pandemic, assisted by the Universal Postal Union. Across continents and seas, critical mail journeys are being reshaped and rerouted. Mail trains have sprung up between China and Europe, and sea routes have opened between Asia and the United States, all in a bid to keep the world’s mail moving.

Governments are also looking at postal networks in a new light domestically. In a world dominated by the warp speed of technology, the post can feel like a silent partner operating largely unnoticed. This view has changed dramatically during the pandemic. Leaving aside the post’s essential role in the ever-growing global e-commerce market, governments are realising that postal supply chains are about so much more than parcels and packages.

Posts are being seen as essential service providers not just for the mail, but also for an increasing range of social services for beleaguered populations. In Ireland, An Post is throwing an invaluable lifeline to the elderly asked to stay at home. The post offers a service for concerned family members to register their elderly relatives and postmen to routinely knock on the doors of those living alone in isolated areas.

Australia Post has set up a Pharmacy Home Delivery service to ensure that households receive medicine. The post is also involved in delivering blood pressure monitors, and helping to distribute hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment and antibody testing kits. Across the world, these services are being replicated, as governments realise that the postal supply chain has reach and scope far beyond its traditional work.

All of these actions are driven by the post’s unique position within our societies: postal systems are trusted and they have an unrivalled knowledge of people and communities.

When governments look to partners for support during this pandemic and in the future, there is no better partner than the post. Covid-19 is a terrible tragedy, but it has allowed the world’s postal operators to shrug off old perceptions and to show the post for what it is: a delivery mechanism without parallel for the world’s goods and services.

Pascal Clivaz, Deputy Director General, the Universal Postal Union


A version of this letter appeared in the Comment/Letters section of South China Morning Post on 24 May. To see the original, please go to: