Three confirmed COVID cases at Strabane sorting office

ROYAL Mail has confirmed three positive cases of coronavirus at its Strabane Delivery Office.

The confirmation comes amid growing concern over postal delivery delays in recent weeks, with claims that the service is prioritising the delivery of parcels over letters.

Local elected representatives say this has lead to constituents missing out on important letters.

The SDLP's Daniel McCrossan said he had been in touch with Royal Mail after being inundated with calls from constituents.

He said that he understood that as well as the confirmed cases, other staff members are absent due to annual leave, while others are self-isolating as they await test results or are off on normal sick leave.

Speaking on Friday, the West Tyrone MLA said: "Currently they (Royal Mail) are prioritising parcels as they take up more space but are aiming for a delivery across the patch every other day.

"Some of the rounds are very rural and need local knowledge, so that would explain some of the longer delays."

Mr McCrossan has urged local people to be patient given the challenging environment.

‘Difficult circumstances’

"It is important that local people are patient. Local posties are trying to do their best under difficult circumstances," he said.

"My best wishes go out to all out Post Office and Royal Mail staff for the work you do. Stay safe."

Responding to questions from this newspaper, a Royal Mail spokesperson confirmed that deep cleans of the Castle Street sorting office had been carried out following the confirmed cases.

"Royal Mail takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which we operate very seriously.

"Three people at our Strabane Delivery Office have recently tested positive for coronavirus. They are currently recuperating and we wish them a speedy recovery.

"We have since carried out three intensive cleans of the Delivery Office," she said.

Addressing the delayed postal delivery service across the locality, the spokesperson conceded that the pandemic and COVID-related absences is having an impact on service delivery adding that it the postal service is working hard to deliver a comprehensive service.

She continued: "From the start of this crisis, we have always said that despite our best endeavours, it is possible that some areas of the country may experience a reduction in service levels due to coronavirus-related absences at their local mail centre or delivery office.

"We have been working hard to deliver the most comprehensive service we can to all our customers in challenging circumstances throughout this period.

"Throughout this crisis, every decision we make puts the health of our people and customers first.

‘Preventive measures’

"We have put in place a range of preventive measures to protect both our customers and our colleagues.

"We were the first UK company to put in place social-distancing measures in relation to parcel delivery. We pioneered contact-free delivery.

"We are temporarily not handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures.

"As well as encouraging good hand hygiene, standard ways of working have been revised to ensure that colleagues stay two metres apart at all times.

"In addition we have moved to a one person per van delivery model. All staff have been briefed about the social distancing measures jointly agreed by local management and the CWU.

"This has been supplemented with visible reminders such as posters and one-way floor markings."

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