“People think lockdown is finished,” the WHO’s European region director, Hans Kluge, said in an interview with The Telegraph this week.
But it hasn’t, he cautioned – in truth “nothing has changed”.
And for anyone tempted to relax as some of the appearances of normal life return, he had a sobering warning.
We should now be bracing ourselves for a more deadly wave of the virus, later this year. We have a few months to prepare for it.
That’s exactly what happened with the 1918-20 Flu pandemic.
When that virus first emerged, in March 1918, it seemed to be a typical seasonal illness. It wasn’t until the autumn of that year that it developed its most deadly, virulent form – and became the virus that killed around 50 million people worldwide.
Mr Kluge is not alone in his assessment. Many experts, including England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, have given similar warnings. They are not saying it’s a certainty, but it’s a risk that must be planned for.
As Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy on Covid-19 reminded the BBC’s Today programme (May 15th) the lockdown period of itself has done nothing to make the virus less dangerous – all it has done is given breathing space for defences to be strengthened.
Coronavirus, he said, “is extraordinarily dangerous”, “it can develop explosive outbreaks really rapidly” and it will remain “a constant threat” even as we try to get on with our lives.
Experienced security and risk professionals will already be acting on this assumption.
Hygiene and social distancing measures are now mission-critical for all organisations, right up there along with fire and cybersecurity. That means not exposing staff and visitors to infection risks when they arrive on and move around sites, for example by requiring them to touch keypads or potentially dirty surfaces, such as door handles, to queue up or gather in crowded locations.
Controlling infection risks on site
The focus should be on introducing rigorous hygiene regimes, and new measures to minimise the risk of infection.
Where possible, integrated video and access systems can be leveraged to allow infection-risk activity on site to be monitored and audited more easily.
For many organisations automating as much as possible will be important, because staff and resources will be under pressure.
With this in mind, the technologies and solutions that we already have for reducing queuing, and for monitoring building occupancy levels, should be made better use of. They can be rapidly deployed now for this new purpose.
Heatmapping, for example, which is a standard feature with cameras such as those from Axis Communications, can be used to identify areas on sites where overcrowding develops, and allow changes to be made to the way areas are used, or physically arranged, and send alerts to operators if immediate action is required.
AI surveillance applications can also be used to measure occupancy density by counting staff and visitors in and out of buildings, or on each floor, to facilitate social distancing.
Similarly, trip-zone tools can be put to new use. They can help with contact tracing, and may help prevent an outbreak associated with your site – which is a risk especially if you are operating a large multi-floor, mixed-use facility or large campus. Cameras using trip zones can be integrated with the access control system to cover specific doors. When a person uses their credentials to open the door, the camera takes a snapshot and stores it as an event. If that person later develops Covid-19, it will be possible to retrieve an audit trail of movements and identify who they came into close contact with. And cameras that have edge video analytics (EVA) record metadata even when analytics aren’t applied, so operators can rapidly search recorded footage by appearance to track a person’s movement throughout a facility, if required.
And, it’s not only employees that security and FM teams need to be concerned with – it’s visitors, including staff from other locations, customers, and contractors. Many access control systems still lack the ability to automate very often clunky, manual processes and rely on signing-in books, paper ID cards or proximity cards printed at reception desks. These don’t provide easy audit trails or allow targeted restriction of visitor access across multiple sites.
The latest visitor management systems let you provide visitors with QR codes that offer them time restricted and contactless access together with instructions ahead of arrival. With these systems, visitors can check-in at kiosks which can even come with built-it body temperature screening cameras, and hand sanitizers as well as site safety and hygiene information.
This all helps to minimize contact with reception and gatehouse staff – an important consideration as it’s already been reported that security guards are more at risk of infection, not helped, perhaps, by frontline working conditions and long hours.
There were already strong arguments in favour of these latest visitor management solutions – including more efficient front of house operations, more streamlined and cost-efficient automated processes, improved visitor experiences, and audit trails. Now hygiene tops the list of benefits too. And it’s not just staff that want to be assured of safety – customers visiting your sites will notice, and respond positively, to the protection and safety measures you put in place.
Other technology to consider includes IP audio, which can now be used to issue public reminders about social distancing and to communicate other coronavirus safety messages, as well as for alerting staff in the event of overcrowding and other safety and security incidents.
Touch-free access control readers can also be cost-effectively introduced or, where these are not possible, hand sanitizers can be mandated through integration with door controllers, so they are used before doors can be opened. This is already a proven hygiene practice in some industrial sectors and in sterile environments.
So this temporary ‘breathing space’, May, June and July, should be used to research the market and to look at technology that allows buildings and work spaces to be used more safely.
Without relaxing security (because, yes, all those old threats still exist) managers now have a new priority objective: as much as possible, to remove the risk of infection for everyone coming onto their sites.
In that way you protect your people, your organisation, your corporate reputation, and the locations where you operate. And that helps reduce the risk of staff quarantining, of facilities being closed for cleaning and decontamination.
This will remain important long into the future, regardless of how long it takes for a vaccine for Covid-19 to be developed. There are plenty of other viruses out there already, including flu and measles, and more dangerous strains can develop any time.
So just as we’ve become more aware of cyber security risks and the need for continual, ongoing defenses, the same applies to viruses.
If you weren’t prepared for infection risks before, make sure you are now.