Since Boris Johnson announced the introduction of lockdown measures last month (23 March), which included the immediate closing of non-essential businesses across the UK, many have wondered whether the postal service is still running.
In a statement on their website, the Post Office Ltd confirmed that their services have been designated as essential by the UK government.
‘The vast majority of Post Offices are open’
Nick Read, Chief Executive of the Post Office said, “The vast majority of Post Offices are open. Many are located in convenience stores, newsagents or stand-alone branches that are allowed to be open by the government.
“Customers are able to get cash, deposit cheques, pay bills as well as send and collect parcels. These are vital services, particularly for many vulnerable customers.”
Which branches have closed?
Post Offices located in public libraries have now all closed. However, to help customers posters have been implemented outside these branches indicating the nearest branch.
If you intend to visit the Post Office, it is recommended you check your local branch's opening times, using the Post Office’s Branch Finder, before leaving the house.
This tool is also helpful for checking the new opening and closing times for branches, since opening hour restrictions have been put in place.
Where can I buy stamps?
If you merely need to purchase stamps or items from the Post Office shop, you do not need to leave the house and visit a branch to do so.
You can buy first and second class stamps, as well as fixed price stamps and other supplies, through the Post Office’s online shop, and use letterboxes as normal.
Reductions to Royal Mail services
The Royal Mail has released a statement on their website addressing the effect of the lockdown upon their service, stating they “are experiencing growing levels of employee absence due to illness and self-isolation.”
This decrease in staff has understandably impacted delivery times and the overall service being offered.
“Despite our best endeavours, it is likely that some areas of the country will experience a reduction in service levels due to coronavirus-related absences at their local mail centre or delivery office,” the statement reads.
“We are committed to ensuring we deliver for the country. Our colleagues are keeping the mail moving – delivering letters and parcels across the UK, including to those who find it difficult to leave their homes.”
In response to this reduction in service, Royal Mail has introduced new measures to keep customers satisfied.
This includes an extension to retention periods in Customer Service Points as well as Changes to Special Delivery Guaranteed.
As of Monday (6 April) customers now have an extra 30 days to collect their items being held in Post Offices before they are returned to the sender.
Delivery times for items which were posted after Tuesday 31 March 2020, through the Special Delivery Guaranteed service, have changed from 9am the next working day to 12pm the next working day. Items originally scheduled to be delivered by 1pm the next working day, will now arrive by 9pm the following working day.
What are Post Offices doing to protect customers?
The majority of Post Offices now have floor markers indicating where customers should stand while queuing, in order to remain two metres apart - a figure well over the safe distance threshold of one metre (or three feet) advised by the World Health Organisation, and in accordance with government advice.
Post Offices also have a range of informative posters to reiterate the government advice, while protective equipment has also been sourced to keep staff safe.