Photo/Illutration A woman buys 2021 New Year’s cards, left, on Oct. 29. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Many Japanese seem to be wary of contracting the novel coronavirus from touching New Year's postcards as Japan readies to welcome 2021 with no end in sight to the pandemic.

Numerous people who usually send the traditional postcards out said they don't plan to this year due to worries over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm not sending them because I'm afraid of spreading the virus through them," said one respondent to a survey on the cards.

Of 1,018 respondents to a Japan Trend Research survey who said they send New Year’s cards every year or often do so, approximately 11 percent said that they won't send the cards for 2021.

The private online research service surveyed 1,600 people on the internet.

Of 582 respondents who answered that they don't send New Year’s cards or seldom do so in normal years, roughly 6 percent answered that they will send them for 2021.

One respondent who replied that they would send the cards said they would do so because “there were fewer opportunities to meet my friends and acquaintances.”

So how long can viruses actually survive on a sheet of paper such as a New Year’s postcard?

Three hours on sheets of printed paper or tissue paper and four days on paper money, a Hong Kong team found.

The team attached viruses to various kinds of materials in an environment with a temperature of 22 degrees and 65 percent humidity to investigate how long they could remain.

The team is just one of a slew of research efforts around the world that have reported results of studies on the matter, attaching viruses on sheets of paper prepared for lab experiments and examining their longevity.

“Viruses remain at least for a few days on paper money, so we need to be a little bit cautious about New Year’s cards,” said Ryohei Hirose, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, who has studied viruses that become attached to the skin.

“But we don’t need to worry about it too much,” he added. “It would be better to wash your hands before you write New Year’s cards or after touching cards you receive. We just need to take basic anti-infection measures like we do after getting home or touching doorknobs.”

“I'll write and send out New Year’s cards this year, just like in normal years,” Hirose added.

On Jan. 1, 2020, a total of 1.287 billion New Year’s cards and other mail was delivered in Japan. The number was 20 times greater than the average volume of mail delivered per day, or about 61 million, according to Japan Post Co.