INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, has warned global enforcement agencies to beware of letters contaminated with COVID-19 that are being sent to political leaders and other individuals. 

On November 17, INTERPOL published its latest guidelines pertaining to COVID-19 for enforcement agencies in 194 member countries. Among these new guidelines, INTERPOL has said that instances of individuals deliberately attempting to spread the virus have been reported. In Section 3.2.2 of the updated guidelines, INTERPOL warns law enforcement agencies to “consider monitors that refer to deliberate acts with an actual risk of contamination spread.”

These threats reference instances of individuals “spitting and coughing in the faces of law enforcement officers, health practitioners, and essential workers” as an intimidation technique. The guidelines also warned of the deliberate contamination of surfaces and objects, which was reported globally. 

In its updated guidelines, INTERPOL also warned of a few cases of threatening letters allegedly contaminated with the virus to targeted political figures. Although the risk of transfer is limited, it also warned that this tactic could target vulnerable groups, such as older people and those with underlying medical problems. The agency did not provide any details about specific incidents. 

Further attempts at deliberate contamination include individuals who purposefully move from affected areas to non-affected areas, despite travel restrictions and their medical condition. INTERPOL has also reported instances of individuals selling allegedly contaminated body fluids online. 

In response to these risks, the international agency recommends law enforcement agencies to “ take particular care when approaching uncooperative individuals,” such as wearing personal protective equipment. The guidelines emphasized the importance of informing protection agencies and postal services of these biological threats. Postal and front desk services should be wary of the threats posed by suspicious packages. 

The agency recommends that surfaces accessible to the public should be disinfected frequently, and that civil servants follow protection measures, such as wearing masks and/or gloves and distancing themselves from others. 

INTERPOL is encouraging border control officers to report individuals with symptoms at crossing points. The agency is also warning specialized investigators in counterterrorism and cyber crime to monitor online marketplaces.