Coronavirus, a source of concern for newspaper industry?

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The transition to digitization has dealt a blow to newspapers sales across the globe, with people preferring to read documents online, and now print media industry is facing a fresh challenge -- the novel coronavirus.

The virus, known as COVID-19, spreads through respiratory droplets when sick individual coughs or sneezes around people; also, touching your eye, mouth, and nose might lead to infection if you previously touched contaminated surfaces or objects.

"The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low," according to a statement by World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO statement can lead to the assumption that there is no major chance of the spread of COVID-19 through newspapers. However, many people in Turkey have stopped buying outside objects such as newspapers.

"I've bought newspapers daily for the past three decades or so and love reading printed stuff, thus buying at least two of them every day. That being said, I have not bought even a single newspaper for the past week," said Osman Cengiz, a retired teacher.

The 66-year-old man said the coronavirus poses more risk to the older generation, adding he has become more careful and not leaving his home unnecessarily and not touching any objects when he is out.

"Someone [infected] might have touched the newspaper, that is why I do not buy them," he said, but added: "I bought a couple of magazines which were in plastic bags and start reading them after removing the outside layer, which I also disinfected."

Stating that he is an environmentalist and hate to say it, he continued: "This plastic bag outside makes me feel more confident to buy it. Maybe, for a short while, newspapers should follow a similar policy until this outbreak passes."

He is not the only one who is skeptical about buying newspapers due to fears of contracting the virus in Turkey, which has so far confirmed 75 deaths and 3,629 cases linked to the disease, according to an owner of a newspaper stall.

"State officials have repeatedly told people not to go outside their homes, therefore we have much fewer customers. It is clear that we sell at least half of what we used to do," said Vural Akcay, who has been in the business for about 13 years.

Akcay further said that most of his customers were above 40 years of age and the new generation would usually prefer reading online.

"Some of my customers even refuse to receive newspapers despite our delivery boy delivers them at their doors. It is like they believe they will die the moment they touch the paper, it is senseless," he said.

An official working for Sabah newspaper, one of Turkey's top-selling newspapers, said people working in printing house would already wear masks and gloves to minimize the risk posed by the coronavirus.

"After this virus emerged, we have significantly increased our hygiene measures as well," he said, adding employees would use disinfectants regularly and minimize human interaction.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the coronavirus stays for hours on surfaces -- up to three hours in the air, four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and two or three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Having emerged in Wuhan city in China, coronavirus has spread to at least 176 countries and territories so far and was labeled as a pandemic by the WHO.

There are over 530,000 confirmed cases around the world whereas the death toll is over 24,000 worldwide, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Although cases increase worldwide, the majority of those contracting the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery. So far, more than 122,000 people have recovered from the disease.


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