Coronavirus COVID-19 and Dangerous Goods handling / Transportation F.A.Q.

AUTHOR: Nora Pasinetti Sauter

In the light of the rapidly evolving situation of COVID 19 epidemic and recent reports from the WHO (World Health Organization), US CDC (Center for Diseases Control & Prevention), ECDC (European Center for Diseases Prevention & Control), Marken has developed the following FAQ.


What is the Dangerous Goods Classification for shipping COVID19 specimens?

As per the WHO, Patient specimens from suspected or confirmed cases should be transported as UN3373, “Biological Substance Category B”, when they are shipped for diagnostic or investigational purposes. Viral cultures or isolates should be transported as Category A UN2814, “Infectious substance, affecting humans”.

See the WHO Interim Guidance here and the US CDC FAQ here


Do people preparing and packing specimens for transport need Dangerous Goods Training?

There is no requirement for persons shipping UN3373 to have a complete Dangerous Goods (DG) training. However, in order to ensure safety for the transport chain, they must be aware of IATA packing instruction 650 and the principles ruling the classification of infectious specimens. Sites shipping UN2814 must be fully DG trained on IATA Dangerous Goods and familiarized with local Dangerous Goods Regulations (e.g. ADR in Europe, 49CFR in the USA) applicable on roads and must be able to sign the Shipper’s Dangerous Goods Declaration. Refer to IATA website for the classifications rules here and for Packing Instruction 650 here.


Are there restrictions on Cargo? Is there a risk for COVID 19 from packages shipping from affected Regions?

Though a lot is still unknown about the novel coronavirus, the WHO uses information related to previous MERS and SARS outbreaks. In general, Coronaviruses are assessed with a poor survivability on surfaces. Neither the WHO nor the US CDC have identified packages as a vector, consequently no specific restriction on cargo have been implemented besides those already applicable by States (e.g. veterinary controls). See the WHO FAQ here  and US CDC FAQ here



Do Airlines apply specific restrictions on Shipments of Biological Specimens, Infectious Specimens UN3373 / UN2814?

Since the outbreak, Marken Operational Team constantly monitor flight cancellations resulting from travel restrictions, Which affect the air carriers’ capacity. A daily log is updated daily and shared with Operational leaders. As the situation is evolvin, Marken Operations Teams also monitor Airlines’ DG acceptatance changes closely. At the time of publishing this guidance,  Singapore Airlines has started to impose greater scrutiny on UN3373 which may result in delays. It is not certain that Airlines would increase the classification of UN3373 into UN2814 to factor epidemic conditions as they did during the Ebola Outbreak 2014. Contrary to Ebola – which is always UN2814, COVID 19 is classified as UN3373. If this changes, and additional restrictions are imposed on material classified as UN3373 for Patients’ specimens coming from areas affected by COVID19, Marken will send additional updates.


What are the main requirements for UN3373 under the Dangerous Goods Regulations?

The Packing Instruction 650 rules for the packing, packaging, labeling, marking. UN3373 requires triple packaging solutions that can pass series of 1.2m drop tests.

There are net quantity limitation for air shipments:

  • 1L max per primary receptacles and 4Lmax per package when liquid.
  • 4kg max per package when solid.


What are the requirements for UN2814?

The Packing Instructions 620 rules the packing, packaging, labeling, and marking. UN2814 requires triple packaging solutions that bears the UN homologation. Shipper must issue and sign a Declaration of Dangerous Goods.

There quantity limitations for air shipments:

  • 50ml max per package when liquid.
  • 50g max when solid.


Each packaging system must be used in its entirety, and there will be no interchange or substitution of components from different manufacturers. Reusable packaging is not to be used. National requirements would rule Driver’s Certification, Vehicle, Designation of a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers, application for transfer/movement permits. Additionally, a Security Plan must be applied to cover transit.


Can we find the WHO technical instructions?

We can refer to WHO Technical Instructions here


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