USPS reports pandemic halts mail service to many countries
By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
The United States Postal Service has suspended mail service to approximately 75 countries because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, creating a logistics nightmare for many shippers who rely on the mail to get their products to foreign markets.
The coronavirus has also affected domestic operations, the USPS said in an April 17 industry alert posted on the agency’s website.
The alert said that while the Postal Service’s flagship Priority Mail Express overnight service is not impacted, Priority Mail two- and three-day service commitments will be extended to three and four days, respectively.
First-class package service will be extended to two days to four days, from the current two- and three-day commitments, respectively.
The internal mail suspensions announced April 1 affect some major foreign markets, including South Africa, India and Saudi Arabia.
The USPS listed 26 suspensions due to foreign postal service operator actions and 45 suspensions due to transportation problems.
“The Postal Service received notice that various postal operators are no longer able to process or deliver international mail or services originating from the United States (U.S.) due to service disruptions related to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a USPS announcement posted on the agency’s website.
“As a result, the Postal Service is currently unable to accept items destined for affected countries at any Post Office or postal facility location, effective April 3 until further notice.”
Several organizations composed of international mailers confirmed that the action has affected their members.
Kate Muth, executive director of the International Mailers Advisory Group, told Linn’s Stamp News: “My members are mostly outbound international shippers so they are, of course, experiencing major delays, but that’s because of the loss of airline lift with all the carriers cancelling passenger flights. Much of international mail travels on passenger flights.”
“And then of course destination countries have their own issues around service impacts due to coronavirus,” Muth said.
“I’d say there are concerns about service performance for all products, though the issues appear to be localized rather than nationwide,” said Michael Plunkett, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, a group of large mailing organizations.
A USPS spokesman said he could not estimate when the mail suspensions would end.
The Postal Service’s website also notes that “The Postal Service is not embargoing mail coming into the United States. We have been notified by numerous international Posts that they are not allowing mail to enter or exit their countries.”
These and other USPS mailing alerts are posted on the USPS website.
The UPS has reported some disruptions to its international service. “We have made network adjustments as warranted by working with regulators and government entities,” a UPS spokesman in Atlanta said.
FedEx also reported on its website that it has “made network adjustments as warranted by working with regulators and government entities.” In some instances service to some countries has been suspended, it said.
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