The first postal operator we interviewed was Poste Italiane, as the country was hit particularly hard by the virus and was among the first to go into a nation-wide lockdown. Vincenzo Aurelio, Poste Italiane’s CEO advisor, answered our questions and gave an insight into how Italy’s post handled the pandemic and how they will move forward as the lockdown measures are relaxed.

Could you please tell us when Poste Italiane first started experiencing issues related to the spread of Covid-19 in Italy? 

On 21 February, the first extraordinary measures were implemented in a few municipalities in Northern Italy. The situation gradually impacted more areas and since 11 March, the state of emergency was extended to the whole national territory.

What immediate measures have been taken at a company level? 
Poste Italiane has consistently followed the development of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim of protecting workers and guaranteeing essential services to the country.

Poste Italiane has adopted stringent measures that comply with the regulatory provisions issued by the government. All company premises, including the entire post office network and the postal sorting centres have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized using chlorine and alcohol-based detergents. Before re-opening to the public, all branches where positive Covid-19 tests had been confirmed, had been subject to extraordinary sanitation and disinfection operations to the highest standards, with detergents containing sodium-hypochlorite, ozone or hydrogen peroxide. 

Additionally, company fleet sanitation equipment is already in use, which sanitizes the internal surfaces of company vehicles, using micro-nebulisation and hydrogen-peroxide solutions.

Thermal imaging cameras to detect body temperature have already been installed in HQs, mail and parcels sorting centres and all workplaces with over 150 employees.

All active counter staff, mail delivery staff and couriers, have been equipped with safety equipment, including protective masks, disposable gloves and sanitizing gel with antiseptic action.

In an extraordinary practical and organizational effort, 14,000 Plexiglas panels have been manufactured and installed, in record time, to protect staff and customers in all post offices not previously equipped with protective glass.

In addition, separation lines have been marked out on the floor at every counter, indicating the social distancing requirements of at least one meter.

Information notices have been posted outside every branch, informing customers of all actions taken to contain the spread of Covid-19, from sanitisation to conduct as recommended by the Health Authorities, from regulating the entrance to branches, in order to respect social distancing, and the use of protective equipment. We have also encouraging use of ATMs as an alternative to counters for cash withdrawals and the use of all our digital channels, and our apps for all other services. An information channel has been put in place to facilitate the flow of information and to allow colleagues to regularly report the specific needs of each branch. These include a dedicated portal to allow timely verification of the actions taken by the company, and a toll-free number to request additional information.

Every single employee plays an active role in combatting the spread of Covid-19.

Poste Italiane post offices are open in different shifts during the day and in proportion to the number of inhabitants per commune. However, posts need to ensure its services, also in remote areas, have you faced difficulties in employees’ engagement?  If so, what have you done in overcoming this? 

Poste Italiane has gradually re-organised operations across its post office network to protect its people and customers, dealing with staff absences due to precautionary quarantine, or positive virus tests, guaranteeing at least one open post office in each area and community, each week.

Poste Italiane engaged in delivering pensions at home in order to avoid people going at post offices to draw on their pensions. How did it work in practice? 

Poste Italiane is considered an essential element of Italy’s economy and a key infrastructure in the country. For this reason, we are strongly committed to preserve, as much as possible, the postal service, considering the current preventive measures in place. In this regard, we have successfully maintained the universal service in the whole national territory, with limited disruption of certain postal services in few areas, due to local provisions, and commercial mail.

We are also closely collaborating with institutions to support the whole community in this difficult time, ensuring the safe continuation of essential services, also by creating strategic synergies with other equally crucial elements of the country’s economy. The agreement with the Carabinieri force to allow pensions to be delivered at home to retired people over 75 is just an example. This segment of the population has, in fact, been identified as particularly exposed to the COVID-19 virus and this measure has been implemented to protect them.

The pre-requisites to access this free-of-charge service include, apart from age, the lack of current account or savings books in which the pension could be transferred, the absence of close relatives living in the area and the submission of a request by contacting a dedicated toll free number and signing a specific proxy form. 

Following the Government’s instructions, Poste Italiane Bank temporarily suspended the payment of mortgage loans. Are you aware if your company has extended other initiatives towards community?

  • Ensuring orderly pension payments on a pre-agreed schedule (in order to avoid a large amount of people gathering of people to collect their pensions, Poste Italiane has decided to anticipate the schedule, organising a calendar in alphabetical order allowing effective provision of service to all customers in ten working days, by the usual deadline pensions are normally made available by the Government).
  • Facilitating State wage support (furlough) payment
  • Service provider of an emergency income for financially vulnerable citizens
  • Supporting municipalities with social aid and PPE distribution

Over this period have you seen variations in some industry segments, such as parcel delivery due to online shopping for instance? Could you please provide us with some information?

There has been an increase in the parcels and e-commerce segments: for more results I would invite you to read our Q1 2020 results and CEO comment on the current extraordinary situation for more information.

Are you aware of any new business solutions or initiatives implemented over this period ( i.e. transportation of medical equipment, delivering informative material on behalf of Government, specific service for parcel delivery)? 

In order to avoid human contact, parcels and registered and insured items that would ordinarily require the addressee’s signature can, with the addressee’s consent, be deposited in the addressee’s mailbox or in a secure location on their premises, with signature by the postman/woman on their portable devices. This special provision ensures that there is no physical contact between Poste Italiane staff and customers. Alternatively, if the addressee is absent or wishes to collect the item from a post office, a special notice of delivery will be left in their mailbox, with instructions for access to the post office. Of course, access to post offices is also subject to restrictions and special conditions, so as to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect Poste Italiane staff and customers. For the same reasons, any cash-on-delivery items is made available at post offices and the addressee preliminary informed by means of a special note left in their mailbox.

Poste Italiane has enhanced sanitary protection supply for its employees. Could you please provide us with some additional information? 

Please see a dedicated video on all measures undertaken by Poste Italiane.