March 13, 2020
By Dan Polkowski, Export Compliance Manager, Imperial Clinical Research Services, Inc. and West Michigan District Export Council Member
Jean Schtokal, Shareholder, Foster Swift PC and West Michigan District Export Council Chair
Imports of Product
One of the questions we are getting from manufacturers and service providers is whether packages with product are safe if coming from an area where COVID-19 has been reported.
Here is the latest information from the World Health Organization on this issue:
Is it safe to receive a package from an area where COVID-19 has been reported?
Yes. 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. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses?cmp=EMT-1004395-5-1-200-1111110-GLBL-US-EN-CCMZNOTIZCOVID0&ET_CID=764025&ET_RID=16603095&LINK=WHO_CORONAVIRUS#
Also, here is the latest information for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with regard to this issue:
Am I at risk for a package or products shipping from China?
There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged COVID-19 and how it spreads. Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV). The virus that causes COVID-19 is more genetically related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are beta coronaviruses with their origins in bats. While we don’t know for sure that this virus will behave the same way as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, we can use the information gained from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us. 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. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
To date, we are not aware of any package quarantine in place specifically with regard to COVID-19.
Export of Product
As of March 10, 2020, China is ramping back up production. Import flights will be packed full, which opens up a massive opportunity for EXPORTS! For example, FedEx added 6 flights inbound to handle the growing capacity. This leaves even more space for outbound volume to the Asia/Pacific region.
Commercial flights are down, but international airfreight carriers are still in the AIR! Note for example that FedEx loaded new rates on March 10, 2020, and those rates will continue to be updated to match capacity during this fluctuating time. Rates now are more aggressive than they have ever been on a spot quote basis. Here is a link to obtain a spot quote from FedEx: https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/freight-services/international-air-freight-quote.html. At Imperial CRS Inc., we export FDA regulated commodities to over 100+ countries from our U.S. and U.K. locations. We continue to monitor COVID-19 information daily. To date we continue to export with minimal issues. For specific regions of the world where COVID-19 is more widely spread, U.S. exporters should be checking with their preferred couriers to monitor import capabilities. Specialized cold chain couriers for FDA regulated medical products continue to maintain timely door-to-door global service.
International Travel Restrictions Around the Globe
We have all heard about recent travel restrictions in place from the US government. At Foster Swift, we have directed our business clients in need of information about global travel restrictions to the International Air Transport Association website. The website is helpful, and frequently updated. International Air Transport Association https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/international-travel-document-news/1580226297.htm
Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Assistance
The SBA is also offering Disaster Assistance in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The assistance includes low-interest federal disaster loans (up to $2 million) for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. The assistance is coordinated through requests from states. Here is a link to the SBA website providing more information https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19 and here is a link to the Michigian Small Business Development Center website which will provide updates on efforts to release assistance for Michigan businesses https://sbdcmichigan.org/small-business-covid19/