FILE PHOTO: A member of a ground crew walks past American Airlines planes parked at the gate during the coronavirus disease …
FILE - A member of a ground crew walks past American Airlines planes parked at the gate during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, Apr. 5, 2020.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The Universal Postal Union and the International Civil Aviation Organization are urging governments to provide postal, air cargo and express mail operators with the money and flexibility necessary to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Postal services depend upon passenger planes flying and delivering the mail to people around the world.  The pandemic has upended this system. Many governments have grounded or seriously limited air travel to prevent the deadly coronavirus from spreading to their countries.

This is causing delays in the delivery of the mail. Spokesman for the Universal Postal Union, David Dadge, told VOA the post has reacted by creating new shipping, trucking and train routes to deal with this crisis. 

“What ICAO and UPU are actually saying is if you want to return to the kind of quick deliveries that we were providing before, we need to get the system up and running again and governments need to throw themselves behind the idea of trying to get things moving again,” he said.

Dadge denies that the viability of the international postal network is under threat from competition by private companies who have stepped in to pick up the lag.

“But to be honest, and the figure is quite stark, the private companies are probably delivering around 70 percent of the parcels and the postal operators around 30 percent. So, in essence, the world is changing, and postal operators also need to move with the times,” he said.

Dadge said the industry has been changing its strategy quickly and dramatically to deliver the medical and humanitarian supplies needed to fight the pandemic. He said the post is no longer just about the physical delivery of the mail. He notes many of the services it offers are conducted over the Internet.

“I think what you will find from the pandemic is that this transformation and this movement to the digital, the movement to the internet will be very much the way that the post defines itself as we go further into the 21st century.  It is no longer about mail. It is more about parcels. It is more about financial services. It is more about business,” he said.

While private services offer stiff competition, Dadge said it is doubtful that they would wish to deliver the post to people living in isolated, remote areas. He said that would not be financially profitable.

A unique feature of the universal postal system, he says is the mail is delivered to everybody, rich and poor alike, all over the world, at a cost that is affordable.